New coach, same old Oaks
WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. -- A lot of the cast and characters that make up the Oaks Christian football team remain intact.
Assistant coaches Rick and Casey Clausen, Clay Matthews, and Mark Bates? Still there.
Quarterback Brandon Dawkins? Still slinging the ball around the football field.
Wide receiver Francis Owusu, defensive lineman Marcus Jones? All still wearing the Cardinal and Gold.
However, there's one voice that's different.
That belongs to new head coach Jeff Woodruff, who's taken over for the retired Bill Redell.
As far as experience goes, Woodruff isn't taking much of a back seat to his predecessor. He spent over 30 years at the collegiate level with stops at Eastern Michigan (head coach, 2000-2003) and UTEP (assistant, 2005-2011), and won a national title as an assistant at Washington in 1991.
Woodruff knows a good thing when he sees it, which contributed to him keeping things intact.
"I’ve done this for a lot of years and I think it’s easy to recognize good, quality teachers (and) coaches," Woodruff said. “They know how to win. Coach Redell and his staff have done a great job.”
The staff, the verbiage, all status quo for the Lions.
“We’re not going to run the wing-T,” Woodruff said. “We’re not going to scrap what we do offensively or defensively. We’re just going to tweak some things and add a few wrinkles just to try to be efficient.”
He inherits a team that went to back-to-back championship games in the Northern Division and a quarterback that went 9-2 as a starter last season, after the Lions split their first two games in 2011.
This season Oaks, along with the rest of the Marmonte League, will move up to the Pac-5 Division. It's a challenge that's welcomed.
“I’m definitely a little bit anxious about getting into this (division with) all this hype that’s about it,” said Dawkins, who was recently offered by Notre Dame. “I just want to see how these teams are and how they play out there.”
Woodruff, meanwhile, sees some of the pitfalls that come with such a jump.
"Certainly (teams in the Pac-5 are) going to have more numbers than we (have), they’re going to have bigger kids, they’re going to have better depth," Woodruff said. “That’s going to be a major issue for us.”
He's especially concerned with the lack of size on the offensive line. After 6-foot-5, 300-pound Reno Rosene, who started last season as a freshman and has already been offered by Notre Dame, the line gets a lot smaller. Jones will likely be called on to play both ways.
The Lions will welcome an impact transfer in sophomore-to-be Darick Holmes Jr. from Muir. Holmes Jr., who was an all-purpose threat last season, has been offered by UCLA.
The secondary will get a boost from a healthy Malik Cyphers. The cornerback missed nearly half of last season with a knee injury. Cyphers, who will be a junior this fall, started for Narbonne as a freshman and received an offer from SMU. He’s now 100 percent healthy and looking to take on a larger role.
“I’m very motivated,” Cyphers said. “I’m very excited to actually play a full season and to get out there to play both sides of the ball –offense, defense and also some special teams. It’s very exciting especially going into the Pac-5. It’s going to be a great year.”
In addition to moving to the Pac-5, the Marmonte League will split into two divisions for the 2012 season –- East and West.
The Woodruff Era will begin at Del Oro on Aug. 24 followed by Granite Bay at Westlake High School on Sept.1. Both games are a part of the Battle for Veterans.