From his playing days as a deep snapper to a coaching career that spans more than a decade, Tyler Wicke has been linked with special teams for years.
The majority of that time as a coach has been spent on staff with Todd Ford, dating back to Ford’s days patrolling the sidelines in Round Rock as head coach for an upstart Cedar Ridge program. With Ford set to do the same at Plano Senior, Wicke will reprise a familiar role as special teams coordinator, as well as wide receivers coach, for the Wildcats.
“I’ve worked with coach Ford for the last eight seasons. I couldn’t believe more in the system that we’ve worked with over those years and I have a strong belief that [Ford] will be successful wherever he’s at,” Wicke said. “It was a great opportunity, in combination with him and everything that has gone on at Plano — all the success they’ve had in the past. They’ve never really been down, so the opportunity to work with a program with that much history and with one of my greatest friends and mentors was a chance I couldn’t pass up.”
Wicke has been part of Ford’s staff at Cedar Ridge and Lovejoy prior to coaching in Plano — commanding the head coach’s special teams unit at each stop. With experience in that department under his belt beforehand during the infancy of his coaching career in Austin ISD, Wicke has developed a passion for the craft.
“It was something where one of the guys I worked with early said, ‘If you want to move through here and have a chance to be successful, this is something you’ll have to learn,’” Wicke said. “They brought me on the first year and I worked at it with him and then he retired after that season. Starting my second year of coaching, I’ve been a special teams coordinator every year since then.
“It allowed me to really focus on it long-term, so I’ve seen a lot of changes and shifts in philosophies, so it’s given me a pretty good perspective of everything that goes on in that area.”
In recent years, Texas high school football has undergone several rule changes to special teams to increase player safety. In 2018, the NCAA Football Rules Committee adjusted kickoffs to allow players to call for a fair catch for any kicks inside the 25-yard line and still begin the drive at the 25.
While each change forces teams to recalibrate their approach to a certain area, Wicke gets to take a more tactical, creative side to the alterations.
“It’s really about keeping up to date with the rule changes and how we can use them to benefit us. Here’s how we can take advantage of whatever situation is being presented to us,” Wicke said. “There aren’t as many standard ways of doing things special teams-wise as there is on offense and defense, so I enjoy the opportunity to think outside the box a bit and come up with creative ways to get the job done.”
Wicke looks to put that into practice with a revamped kicking group for the Wildcats, who graduated Aidan Christensen and Diego Santibanez from last season. Santibanez doubled as a standout player with Plano’s boys soccer team, and several other Wildcats could be expanding their skill set from the pitch to the gridiron this fall as well.
“We’ve had some soccer players come out who weren’t with the program previously, and they’ve been doing a great job,” Wicke said. “We’ve got a sophomore and a to-be-junior who have shown some promise, too. We haven’t nailed things down completely yet, but things are looking good there.”
Wicke will also help coach wide receivers alongside assistant coach Carson Meger, another unit that will have a drastically different look this season.
One of the Wildcats’ strong suits last year behind all-district picks Jayden Chambers and Nolan Williams, Plano’s receiving corps graduated more than 90% of its passes caught by wide receivers in 2019. Senior running back Tylan Hines was productive in a pass-catching role with 14 grabs for 169 yards and three touchdowns, while seniors Khamare Spivery and D’Mariyon Lloyd have been among the early standouts out wide.
“The biggest thing is getting these guys to believe and trust what we’re going to do,” Wicke said. “Khamare and D’Mariyon have both really bought into what we’re trying to do and have been big leaders for that group.”
As the Wildcats continue to develop pass catchers for senior quarterback Oliver Towns, Plano can begin fall practices on Sept. 7. The Wildcats will scrimmage Rockwall-Heath on Sept. 17 before opening the 2020 season Sept. 25 against McKinney.