Now that he has the hardware, Tracy Gandy knows what comes next.

The defense.

Just months after a dominant postseason performance that propelled Ringling to its fourth state title in program history, the Blue Devils have now taken the first step in the post-Jackson Dillon era after going through a week of spring practice that concluded on Wednesday.

“Sometimes you have players that redefine their position, and Jackson was one of those,” Gandy said. “What we need to do is find out what talents these kids have and how to use them.”

Dillon was one of just nine seniors on last year’s team, but Gandy called that class “one of the best group of leaders we’ve ever had” at Ringling.

“You don’t just replace those guys,” Gandy said. “You replace the players, and that process has been in place for as long as they’ve been playing.”

One of those expected to take a larger leadership role will be upcoming senior quarterback Taner Richardson, who comes off an impressive performance in the state championship victory over Wynnewood that took many around the state by surprise.

But not his head coach.

“I guess some people were kind of surprised by his performance in the playoffs, but I wasn’t,” Gandy said. “He and I have already talked about his role coming up, and he knows that it will depend on what we need from him.”

Richardson is one of a much larger senior class than the one that preceded it, but leadership, Gandy said, will still be decided by the 50 young men on the field.

“Those kids, always, are the ones who pick their leader,” Gandy said. “Sometimes it’s more than one, but they’ll pick it.”

As for the expectations that follow the Blue Devils as the program looks to repeat as champions of Class A, Gandy said it’s nothing new around Ringling.

“The first thing we talked about was how last season is over and done,” Gandy said. “We’ve addressed the fact that we’re not going to sneak up on anybody, and they know that.

“The target has always been on our back, it might just be a little bigger this year.”

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