John Tracy knows this is his big opportunity.
The senior quarterback, who transferred from Birningham Brother Rice to Walled Lake Westernin December, now gets to direct one of the most potent offenses in the state.
“It has been different here,” he said. “From Day 1 since I’ve been here, I notice they really get at it, working all day, every day. They’ve given me the keys to the offense and I’ve loved it. It’s pretty much my offense.”
The last guy who was there, Kyle Thomas, didn’t do to badly. Thomas, a coaches’ association All-Star now at Findlay University, set a school record with over 2,150 passing yards, while also rushing for over 750 and scoring 10 TDs, often improvising while directing the multiple spread.
Now its Tracy’s turn, and after getting to know his new teammates and studying the playbook for months on end, got his first chance to run the show during Monday’s season-opening practice.
“It’s very wide open, throwing the ball a lot. Here, I’d say it’s getting a lot more people in their space, it’s a lot faster. Brother Rice, we ran some double tight end sets, but it’s all wide open here,” he said. “It’s good to get out here to an actual practice instead of just doing seven-on-sevens or something. Everything’s coming together finally.”
The 2015 Warriors scored over 40 points a game en route to a 12-1 season and berth in the Division 2 semifinals. Western opened the year with a 42-40 win at Lowell, but the Red Arrows won the rematch in the semis, 49-35.
Tracy – who sports a 4.3 grade-point and scored 30 on the ACT and 1,350 on the SAT – has received scholarship offers from Princeton and Ferris State, with the list sure to grow if the Warriors produce similarly this year.
And that should be easy, seeing as coach Mike Zdebski counts his skill positions as the team’s strength. Tracy’s top target is Cody White (59 catches, 1,148 yards, 14 TDs), a receiver/running back threat verbally committed to Michigan State. White isn’t fretting about having someone new throwing the ball to him.
“No worries about that,” White said. “He’s put it out there for every receiver to go get it. He’s making all the throws that he can, so it’s been good.”
Zdebski said Tracy has a different style from Thomas, but he’s well-suited to guide the Warriors.
“He’s 6-3, 200, he’s more of a pocket-type kid,” Zdebski said. “He can run, though, he’s got a good presence with that height. He can see things a little bit easier and he’s gotten stronger. He’s a smart kid and he understands things; doesn’t seem to get rattled. We want to see what happens when he gets some big-time defensive lineman running after him, but so far he’s shown very good leadership and composure.”
As the Warriors play fast, they practice equally as fast. At Monday evening’s first session, players shifted seamlessly from drill to drill, formation to formation, cued by an air horn every five to 10 minutes. By midweek, they will already be preparing for their Week 3 opponent, Northville.
“I think the kids have got a pretty good football IQ, and we’ve got to scale things to what we need to do to be successful,” Zdebski said. “We get that one defensive practice in each day and one offensive practice in each day, hit our special teams, then we’ll go to the classroom and do some board work, spend a little bit more time there, and that’s it. That’s all we’re going to do.”
“We’ve worked hard,” White said Monday. “We had a lot of people jump in and know what they’re doing. The new guys are coming in and doing a good job, the older guys are leading, so it’s been a good day.”
And Tracy wouldn’t rather be anywhere else.
“I live 5 minutes down the street and I grew up coming to Western games. It was all about Western growing up,” he said. “I’m incredibly happy to finally be part of the atmosphere here, it’s great.”