Now that two of Gilman's top offensive weapons are playing in college, quarterback Shane Cockerille will be the focal point of rival defensive game plans, and the senior from Stoneleigh is up for the challenge.
After all, he spent the offseason attending four camps and combines, one of them in Las Vegas and another in California, while gaining some eye-catching accolades, including being named one of the top 11 prep quarterbacks in the nation by his showing in a combine.
More importantly, Cockerille took a big step forward in his skill level as a signal-caller.
That's crucial since he will be front and center for the Greyhounds in 2012, leading a squad rated 16th in the USA Today preseason Super 25 national rankings that opens its season Aug. 26 against Cincinnati's Archbishop Moeller, a seven-time Ohio state champion ranked No. 15.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Cockerille understands his team will be throwing the ball more often after the loss of star running backs Cyrus Jones (University of Alabama) and Kenneth Goins (University of Maryland) to graduation.
And the lefty certainly welcomes the chance to run the team's spread offense.
"There will be a lot more passing, and I definitely would like to pass more," said Cockerille, who committed Maryland in April. "Last year, I would say, percentage-wise, we ran like 90-10, 85-15. I am thinking it will be 50-50 this year."
Gilman coach Biff Poggi and defensive coordinator Stan White are confident Cockerille will have a stellar year.
Cockerille, who also was a champion wrestler and standout track sprinter, transferred to Gilman last year after spending two seasons at DeMatha.
"He was a playful kid when he got here," said White, a former Baltimore Colt linebacker. "He is a lot more mature now. That's the biggest thing. Now he is taking the game seriously. He understands what he wants to do and where he wants to go. That will show in his performance."
Cockerille played well enough last year to earn multiple scholarship offers, after finishing with 26 touchdowns and a combined 2,400 yards rushing and passing to help the Greyhounds to a 10-1 record, No. 21 final ranking in the Powerade Fab 50 final ranking and Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship.
The 18-year-old Cockerille chose Maryland over scholarships offers from the universities of Virginia, and Michigan, Temple University and Navy.
"It's a dream come true," Cockerille said. "I always wanted to be a Terp, and I grew up watching them. I just think it's the perfect situation for me."
Gilman coach Biff Poggi couldn't agree more.
"I think he will have a great college career," Poggi said. "He is the kind of guy that can rally an entire team."
Cockerille may end up carrying Gilman this season much like Jones did last year.
With that possibility, the quarterback has some lofty personal goals.
"I would like to have close to 2,000 yards passing (he had 1,100 last year) and a little more than 1,000 yards rushing," Cockerille said. "With Cyrus gone, I think the offense is going to be based a lot around me."
In anticipation of that, Cockerille improved his footwork and throwing mechanics.
He shined at New York City's Elite 11 Regional in April and earned MVP honors in the Nike Football Training Camp in Westminster in May.
Things only got better with a strong effort in the Las Vegas Elite 11 regional in June that advanced him onto the Elite 11 final in Redondo Beach, Calif in July.
"He is a good athlete," White said. "Now, he has to become a good quarterback. I think those camps helped him. He did a lot last year on just pure athletic ability and now he is learning to play the position."
Poggi said Cockerille is the complete package.
"He eats pressure up and spits it out," the coach said. "Shane has the intangibles you can't coach. "It's a combination of mental toughness, leadership and work ethic."
His physical skills are just as impressive.
One performance gave a glimpse of that last September when Cockerille rushed for nearly 250 yards in a 51-27 victory over Oscar Smith High of Virginia.
"He is so strong," White said. "Most quarterbacks you figure if I get an arm on him, you can tackle him. But he will run through tackles. He is a running threat on a power play and a running threat when he scrambles. He is not your normal quarterback. We are lucky to have him."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun