2014 BARNSTORM TOUR NOTES
STOP FOUR: PALMYRA PANTHERS
For the record, the best play I've seen on the barnstorm tour yet this summer was Defensive Coordinator John Kliewer's super agile interception. The man has cat-like reflexes I am telling you...
Graduation hit exceptionally hard in P-Town as the Panthers return just three full time starters from last season and one part time in Matt Frankenbach on the Defensive Line. In that spirit, I wasn't sure what to expect on my visit. Color me pleasantly surprised with the talent pool in play.
After a couple of seasons of Caleb Kizer and Josh Hultz running the football, Palmyra fans were spoiled. They aren't going to get any less spoiled this season because if there is an obvious strength here, it's speed and athleticism and toughness in the backfield. I am very impressed with both Mason Franklin (who figures to be the "slash" type guy who moves around the Panther Offense and gives Kevin Miles the ability to create talent mismatches) and Trevor Wheeler, who is a bit more of a power run, but with not much fall off in explosiveness. Small window but Wheeler reminds me stylistically a little bit of Mitch Nichols in appearance and style. Not saying he's going to be that level back. But there are some similarities is approach, toughness and ability to hit a hole at full speed. The Panthers won't lack for ground yards. Hard to tell much about the completely rebuilt Offensive Line, absent any contact, but Kevin Miles seems to really like and trust that group.
Replacing Brock Butler is going to be a more interesting issue. I got a chance to watch both Ben Cheffey and Logan Scholl in a limited window on Wednesday and both Juniors have their merits. Cheffey is taller and throws the ball with real ease. He had a couple of interceptions during the session I watched throwing into small windows. He's a talent, I am just not sure restraint is his strong suit. He is a smart kid who seems to read and react well. Scholl is shorter but runs well and seems to read the passing lanes with a lot of instinct. I think both kids have the chance to be really good over the next two years. Neither of them are the improvisational virtuoso that Butler was, but that isn't necessarily a knock on either. They seem to take more deliberate, patient approaches. Biggest difference, you like these guys hanging out in the pocket and think their odds for success increase the longer they are in there. With Butler, you were praying for the pocket to collapse so the real fun would begin.
For my money, Frankenbach is the best returning Defensive Lineman in the Tri States. He's not huge but has such great functional strength that he becomes a 210 lbs guy who plays like he is 250 lbs. He does an amazing job beating Offensive Linemen off the ball and splitting double teams. See also the 19 tackles for loss a year ago. I thought maybe the best way to negate him would be to run right at him and not allow him to pursue but he's really good at stacking up lineman as well. Special player who may well challenge Jacob Trump for CCC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Skyler Kline could be in that mix as well. He's got a chance to be the best Defensive Back in the Cannon. He's unbelievably athletic and has terrific size at 6'2" with which to contest Wide Receivers. Also really impressed with Mason Franklin in back, who broke on two passes in Pass Skeleton better than most College DB's I've seen. He's got special acceleration.
Sleeper kid to watch up front: Brandon Goellner.
My biggest Palmyra concern moving forward is Linebacker. I know it didn't get mentioned as much between last years Secondary and D-Line, but P-Town was incredibly special at the middle level of the Defense last season. Interesting to see who Kliewer finds as his "cleaners" this year. It's a wonderful system to play in, given the aggressive approach, and there are athletes, for certain. Is there a finisher to be found here. We will have to wait for the pads to go on and see. All I know is that Case Doyle and friends left some gigantic shoes to fill.
Hard to imagine a better local opener than Palmyra and Macon, a game that might well eliminate the lose from Clarence Cannon Conference Championship contention before September starts. The Tigers have to be the favorite coming in, which should give Palmyra plenty of motivation going into that game. Kevin Miles crew plays the underdog these days as well as team in our area and his seniors have some real fight to them; not wanting to be the guys who left the momentum slip away. Might be the best ticket to be had August 22nd.