Prep Previews 2014: Person depends on lines to take it places
Overcoming youth and inexperience will be the biggest challenge facing Person coach David Kleine as he gets the Rockets ready for the upcoming season.
The Rockets will be breaking in a new quarterback, rebuilding their offensive and defensive lines and generally relying on more sophomores and juniors than any time Kleine can remember.
“We’re going to be very, very young,” Kleine said. “But we’re going to be very, very skilled. Up front on both sides of the ball is going to determine how our season goes.”
With the departure of 22 seniors from last season’s squad that finished 3-8 overall and 1-4 in the PAC-6 4-A, Kleine said building Person into a contender will take time. Person has gone through eight coaches in the last 12 years but Kleine is headed into his third season at the helm.
“It’s been tough to find consistency for the program but I think we headed in the right direction,” Kleine said. “We’re seeing improvement and getting better every day.”
Leading the Rockets on offense will be a good group of running backs who Kleine thinks will take some pressure off new quarterback Antonio Williams.
“It’s the best group we have,” Kleine said.
Senior Corey Young will line up anywhere in Person’s spread offense from running back to wide receiver, according to Kleine. Junior Taymon Smith earned all-conference honors last season. Sophomore Dontavion Smith was a finalist in the 100 meters last season in the state 4-A track championship meet and will bring speed to the Rockets. Senior Najee Davis will add more depth.
“I can slot any of those players in wherever we need them,” Kleine said. “We have some good versatility in our backs.”
Williams takes over Person’s offense at quarterback after starting the past two seasons on the junior varsity. Williams takes over for Tré Tapp, who transferred to Northern.
“He’s going to be good for us because he has a good command of the offense,” Kleine said of Williams.
Williams will oversee Person’s version of the spread offense and will throw to a group of receivers who should be able to take care of the ball, according to Kleine.
“They’re possession-oriented,” Klein said.
Besides Young, who can play numerous positions, Kleine pointed out A.J. Cash, James Robinson, Matt Moss and Jamurai Royster as the Rockets’ best pass catchers. Sophomore Justin Obie also will work in with the others, all seniors.
The line is Kleine’s biggest concern on offense. He said there could be as many as five sophomores on the field at the same time but it was more likely that the line would be anchored by seniors Devon Parker and Elliott Phillips. Sophomre Tracer Barnette certainly will be in the mix, according to Kleine.
“It’s really up for grabs,” Kleine said. “We’re seeing good effort.”
Defensively, Person will run multiple fronts, according to Kleine.
The leaders of the defensive line will be Brandon Medlin, who will line up at end most of the time, and sophomore Chanston Cobbs, whose size and agility will help him clog up the inside. Senior Caleb Garrett will also get time at defensive end.
“I like their size and skill,” Kleine said. “They all can bounce around on the line.
Person’s linebackers will be a mix of youth and experience with one returning senior in Matthew Mayer. Junior Gabe Snow will help on the outside, while Davis will show his versatility by playing both offense and defense. Sophomore Tyrique Wright and senior Alex Floyd will provide additional depth at linebacker.
The secondary will be led by by juniors Malik Street and Tayshawn Outlaw on the corners. Cash, Davis and Royster will also see action in the defensive backfield.
Senior Colton Barnette will handle the kicking duties, taking over from Jacob Oakley, who graduated. Kleine said Barnette has shown good consistency.
“He’s going to do what we need him to do with extra points, field goals and kickoffs,” Kleine said. “He can kick the ball high which will help us in coverage.”
Kleine said he still is searching for a punter.
Improving in the PAC-6 is Kleine’s top goal. He said after Hillside, which has won 28 straight PAC-6 games dating to 2009, the rest of the teams in the conference have a lot of question marks because of coaching changes and relative inexperience.
“It’s up for grabs after Hillside,” Klein said. “Northern and Jordan could be improved but Riverside and East Chapel Hill each have new coaches. I think we will be improved, too. But we are young and inexperienced.”
PREP PREVIEWS 2014: This is the 11th in a series of 17 previews of area and area conference football programs. The series runs daily through Friday, opening night for most area football programs.