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By GOOSE LINDSAY
With only 23 days until the start of the regular season, Roane County football coaches are all in similar positions this time of year as Kingston’s Vic King, Rockwood’s John Webb, Midway’s Craig Moser, Harriman’s Travis Tapp and Oliver Springs’ Wiley Brackett are all looking to fill holes left by graduation losses from a year ago.
Rockwood was hit the hardest by those losses as John Webb and his staff lost more than half the starters in the trenches including the school’s all-time leading passer in Zach Breazeale, and their top two rushers from last season in Bryant Allen and Simon Moriarty.
While most people believe that’s too much for the Tigers to replace in just one year, don’t be too quick to write off John Webb’s squad.
Senior quarterback Tyler Parsons proved in scrimmages last season and a week four start against Oliver Springs that he will be a solid replacement for Breazeale.
Senior tight end Matt Roberts also returns and should give the Tigers a solid go-to receiver.
Replacing Allen and Moriarty will be tough, but senior Ronnie Dyer is a two-year starter and he should receive plenty of help from Josh Brock and Jeff Inman.
Rockwood’s biggest question mark will be its depth.
Oliver Springs’ problem won’t be replacing a lot of starters, but rather having solid improvement across the board. The Bobcats finished 2-8 last season and a lack of big play ability hurt against Region 2-AA heavyweights like Alcoa, Loudon and Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Curtis Davis returns as the Bobcats leading rusher from 2007 with 492 yards while Jonathan Thornton came on strong at the end of the season and he could give the Bobcats a much needed burst of speed.
Oliver Springs also has some transfers who could provide some big play ability.
The Bobcats will be breaking in senior C.J. Pointer under center.
A solid off season weight program should help the Bobcats show improvement this season.
In Region 2-AAA, the problem for Kingston isn’t as much what they have coming back as it is how do they knock off last year’s playoff schools, Anderson County, Austin-East, Knoxville Catholic and Fulton.
The Jackets offense will center on senior James Sams. Sams rushed for 942 yards and eight TDs in 2007 and will look to again carry the load on offense this season.
Kingston’s biggest questions on offense will be replacing Heath Bailey at quarterback and Zach Zeigler at running back. Matt Francis will get the first crack under center and he gives the Jackets am excellent athlete at QB.
If the Jackets can find playmakers to go with Sams then they should be able to put points on the board against anyone on the schedule.
Defensively, the Jackets should be able to hold their own against just about anyone. Chris Stout is an animal in the trenches and Alex Roberts has been a tackling machine at linebacker.
In Class A, Harriman and Midway are both looking to replace great athletes in the backfield, but both teams still have plenty of speed at the skill positions.
For Midway, the playmakers Craig Moser’s squad must replace is QB Eric Stansbury (1,260 yards combined rushing and passing, 24 total TDs in 2007) and RB Harley Davidson (730 yards, 8 TDs).
The good news for Green Wave fans in that Region 2-A Player of the Year Ray Robinson is back. As a junior, Robinson rushed for 1,800 yards and 22 TDs. Those numbers could increase if the Waves can’t find replacements for Stansbury and Davidson.
Midway, however, will have Quinton Pressley taking over for Stansbury under center and he was running neck-and-neck with Stansbury for the starting position last year at this time before a wrist injury took him out of the quarterback battle.
One player who will help replace Davidson in the backfield will be Matt Oliver. Oliver isn’t a speed burner like Davidson, but he can play fullback and that could give Robinson more carries at tailback.
The Waves will also look to get the ball in the hands of speedster Will Poe more in 2008.
Midway is also looking for depth up front as the start of the season approaches.
Harriman must replace do-it-all QB/RB A.J. Johnson (926 yards rushing, 429 yards passing, 11 TDs) and RB Damian Miller (523 yards rushing).
Travis Gann will be the starter under center and he did complete 61.6 percent of his passes last season.
Sophomores Brandon Williams and Dimitrique Inman will be looked to provide the Blue Devils with big play ability in the backfield while senior C.J. Anderson will provide Travis Tapp’s squad with a bulldozer at FB.
Another big question mark for the Devils will be line play as only five linemen with experience return at the start of the season.