In the words of J.R. Tucker head coach George Earle, 2016 wasn’t a very successful season. The Tigers finished 1-9, starting 12 sophomores and a freshman on varsity. As you might imagine the narrative, this means that J.R. Tucker has 17 returning starters in 2017. There’s plenty of room for excitement.
“We lost a lot of close ballgames,” said Earle. “We’ve used that a lot as momentum over the summer. This team has a different confidence about them.”
Earle said that last year’s weakness of the team was the offensive line, and this year it will be a strength. Those three sophomore starters from the 2016 line all return and are juniors- with a ton more experience under their belts.
“We’ve always had skill players at J.R. Tucker, but I can’t say we’ve ever had that offensive line,” explained Earle.
Gone are running back Te’shard Winston (St. Thomas University), Demi Adepegba and Rashon Walker (both at CNU) to go along with Austin Pytko (spelling) and Bryant Bonzali.
“We’ll miss those players,” Earle said. “But we feel like we have guys who can replace them.”
Quarterback: After suffering a concussion against Hermitage, Dylan Jennings didn’t play the rest of the season, but Earle is exciting to have him back. Sporting a 4.5 GPA, Jennings is very smart and capable, very tough. He’ll have a good brain to rely on to decide which weapons to use “He’s a great option quarterback, can make plays with his legs and has worked hard to get better at throwing the ball,” said Earle.
Running Backs: Jaivon Henley and Keyonte Thompson provide a potent 1-2 punch. Henley is the quick guy, while Thompson is a ‘load’ in the words of his coach. “He’s not going to run around anyone,” said Earle. Henley and Patrick Taylor will also see time and are more speed and vision guys who will also play defense.
Wide Receivers: Wideouts Keyon Dickens (6-2), Michael Jackson (6-3) and tight end Justin Goode (6-2) form what could be a strong unit for the Tights. Goode possesses great hands and is a big body, and will also start at defensive end. Jackson and Dickens are both long and athletic and both play basketball. They both should provide playmaking ability for Jennings and provide J.R. Tucker with the ability to throw the ball more than in the past.
Offensive Line: Earle said that something he finds atypical is going on with the line. The other players in camp have started to feed off the line’s energy. That starts with junior Justin Meade, who’s also a team captain. “He sets the tone for us,” said Earle. Sophomore Kyle Stearett will anchor the line at center. The other line spots are in competition, but Earle is confident that the team will block more effectively and as a result, open up the offense.
Defensive Line: Justin Goode leads the unit. Mason Muterspaugh (6-3, 210) is back and ready to go after tearing his ACL last season and is a ‘rangy and tough kid.’ Dakota Lander and Kyle Palmer add to the line’s depth and will see time in the rotation as well.
Linebackers: Senior Terrae McCann is a captain an three year starter. Dom Barton is another big, strong kid. Keyonte Thompson, Jared Sykes and Kellen Johnson are all names to remember in this unit.
Defensive backs: Kendall Johnson will have high expectations at defensive back in 2017. Earle hopes that the basketball athlete comes in and rounds out the secondary. Michael Jackson will lead the unit at safety.
Special Teams: The kicker will be sophomore Alex Marcolini. The punting duties will be handled by Dakota Jennings, the younger brother of the team’s quarterback.