Heber Springs senior Zach McCormick, known simply as 'Red' by most teammates and coaches, enters his senior season as one of the Panthers' strongest linemen along with classmate Kody Youngblood, who starts at guard.

Heber Springs senior Zach McCormick, known simply as ‘Red’ by most teammates and coaches, enters his senior season as one of the Panthers’ strongest linemen along with classmate Kody Youngblood, who starts at guard.

McCormick started at center the past two seasons and also played defensive end last year when he earned the team’s Defensive Big Play Award, leading the Panthers in tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

This year Red, who is listed at 6-3, 245, shifts from center to strong tackle where he is expected to use his strength and quick feet to bolster the Panthers on the perimeter.

“It’s a lot different working on the edge because on the inside you can get away with a lot more,” said McCormick. “On the outside it’s all out in the open and all on you. Manned up one on one and you’ve got to get the job done. I’ve done it before so I just listen to the coaches and do what they tell me.”

The three-year starter, who benches 325, squats 500 and power cleans 295, said he enjoys serving as a leader. “You gotta know everyone is looking up to you because you have been there and done it and made it through a couple of years. They see how you are working and see that obviously it has worked for you.”

McCormick said this year’s version of the Panthers has all the tools to make it back to the playoffs, which they missed last season for the first time since 2005.

“We’ve got all the parts and pieces of the puzzle here. We just have to put it together, line up and get it done. Our offensive line is key. We’ve got a few good running backs that can take it to the house. If they have big enough a hole to run through they will get it done. And of course our linebackers and D-line have to step up.”

Red said he relishes playing both ways. But if he had to pick one side, McCormick prefers disrupting opponents on the defensive side. “

It takes a lot of hard work [to play both ways]. I can’t lie I like defense. Just going off and hitting somebody.”

McCormick credited Coach David Farr, who continues to work with the offensive line after his promoted from defensive coordinator to head coach in the off-season, with learning various blocking techniques. “Coach Farr has taught me everything I know. He has been with me through my whole career.”

Farr, who started three years on the offensive line at UCA and three games his freshman season on the defensive line after earning All-State accolades at Star City, said McCormick has a nasty side that is crucial to any good linemen.

“You can be big, you can be strong and have everything that looks right on paper, but the great linemen have a nastiness to them that separates them. [Red] has that in him. The type mentality that if you are my guy you are not going to make the tackle to the echo of the whistle. He is a seasoned veteran and we know what we are going to get out of him, but there are also some other guys we know can do it. Youngblood is one of those guys. You have some good leadership on that offensive line,” added Farr.

Farr said McCormick turns it up a notch on both sides of the ball once the games roll around. “Red has a motor on Friday nights. He is very relentless to the football and he is tough to block. He does a good job of shedding guys and making plays on the inside and outside of his gap.”

Offensively, Farr said he expects Red to make a smooth transition from center to tackle. “We are excited to see what he can do moving him from center out to tackle. There is a learning curve for him on the offensive line right now, but he does such a good job on the edge with his feet. Getting him on the edge up on linebackers and getting him to set the edge we felt like he was the guy we needed to do that.

“It’s a compliment to him moving out to tackle, not to say you don’t have to be good to be a center, but you’ve got to be a little quicker at tackle. I think he is going to really excel at tackle and do a great job for us on both sides of the football,” added Farr.

During his down time McCormick, who also plays baseball, said he loves to fish. He works as a guide at Lindsey’s Rainbow Resort on the Little Red River. “I am a pretty big fisherman. As I like to say I am a catcher man because I am always catching fish,” said Red with a smile.

McCormick figures to catch a slab of quarterbacks this fall, while opening up gaping holes for all-conference running back Chandler Marquardt and the Panthers’ slew of talented ball carriers, which also includes senior slot back Chandler Jones, junior running back Eddie Torres and junior quarterback Hunter Chandler.