When the Austin Westlake Chaparrals hoisted their third-consecutive state championship trophy in December, there was one lingering question on everyone's mind ... who would replace the nation's No. 1 quarterback recruit, Cade Klubnik?
Not to mention, one of the true legendary coaches in the high school game, Todd Dodge, who ended his coaching career on a 40-game win streak, with seven state titles in his back pocket.
At least one of those questions was quickly answered when Westlake named defensive coordinator Tony Salazar the new head coach.
As for the quarterback spot, questions still remain. After all, replacing the now-Clemson-bound Klubnik while trying to win a fourth-straight title will be no small task.
However, up-and-coming 2024 quarterback recruit Paxton Land could be up for the challenge, as he enters his junior year hoping to be the next in line at America's quarterback factory.
"Obviously something I’ve dreamed about my entire life," Land said. "Seeing the history of the program, Drew Brees, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger, and now Cade. I mean, it's a pretty elite fraternity. So, I'm honored to have an opportunity to go earn that spot on the team. No handouts at Westlake, as it should be."
With that said, the starting quarterback competition itself is far from decided, and Land will still have to beat out other suitors for the massive hole left by the departure of Klubnik.
Land could have one advantage: he spent an extensive period of time on the varsity squad as a sophomore learning behind Klubnik, completing 13 of 16 passes for 196 yards and four scores, to go along with seven carries for 61 yds.
"It's pretty special to learn behind a generational quarterback like Cade," Land said. "Just the quarterbacks that Westlake produced, he's up there with the greats. And just getting to know him as a person and the way that he handles real-life situations and on the field situations. It’s just been really cool. And I mean, just watching his motion day in day out. How he prepares for practice and how he prepares for games. It's been really special for me to learn under him."
Land already has the physical tools and arm talent in his repertoire to compete for such a high-profile position, but he also knows that there is still room to improve.
One way to do that will be to continue to grow physically. Another is to have faith in his ability, stay confident in his plan, and rely on his teammates.
"This offseason for me, it's just more about getting bigger, faster, stronger, just kind of controlling what I can control," said Land. "It's just being confident in myself and knowing that, as long as I do what I know how to do, God has a plan for me. And whatever that plan is, however it plays out, I'm going to be comfortable with that. Also just relying on my teammates, because I know that if I get to that spot it's just knowing that they are going to have my back."
If he is able to land the starting role, which many around the state expect to be the case, the 6-4, 205-pound rising junior will inevitably begin to get flooded by college offers.
However, until those flood gates open, Land is open to any and all suitors that come his way on the recruiting trail.
"At this point, I'm just kind of trying to keep options open," Land said. "I don't want to focus on any one school because there are things that change with the coaching staffs, and I might see something in a culture that I've never seen before. So just really keeping my options open and being open to really any possibility that comes on."
That's not to say that Land doesn't have his preferences.
He has already attended multiple camps with high-profile programs, including Texas, Texas A&M, SMU, and North Carolina.
"I went to a couple of college camps over the summer," Land said. "Went to multiple camps inside of Texas. A&M, UT, SMU, and then I went to UNC. Went to a couple of Ivy's. Really every experience that I had was just a great, great experience, great coaches. I was just happy to be there."
One major factor in his decision could be staying close to home. Land's family has ties to Texas A&M and he was also very impressed by his time at SMU.
As with any top-notch signal-caller though, the SEC is also going to be on his radar.
"I honestly couldn't say at this point. For me, it's the Texas schools," said Land. "Staying in the state would be really cool. At the same time, there are also the SEC schools because of the conference's history. I mean, obviously, at this point, I don't want to close up any options that may come my way."
Either way, whoever comes to knock on his door, whether it be from the SEC, the Big 12, or the Group of 5, there is one component that will help some programs stick out beyond the rest -- a winning culture.
"Culture is a massive deal," Land said. "Learning from coach Dodge and coach Salazar, and just the way that they've installed the culture, I can see how it impacts a team and a program. That's something that I will want to be a part of at the next level, hopefully."
Paxton Land and Todd Dodge