Published: Aug 14, 2012 03:21 PM
Modified: Aug 14, 2012 03:22 PM
Of the five new coaches in the Tri-9 Conference, Athens Drive’s Chris Martin was the last to be hired.
But he’s had the most time around his current players.
Martin, an assistant with the Jaguars since 2007, enters his first year with a great feel for his team’s capabilities.
The Jags return the nucleus of a team that went 5-7 last year and lost three games by eight points or fewer. Martin will keep most things the same.
“It’s not going to look a whole lot different,” he said.
“We’ve got a senior-dominated team. … They’ve really accepted their leadership roles,” Martin said. “They’re pushing each other a lot more this year than in the past.”
Last year’s team alternated quarterbacks Jason West (2,914 yards, 23 TDs) and Brad Bowling (382 yards, 2 TDs). This year, the two seniors will be on the field at the same time, with Bowling moving to a slot receiver.
Junior running back Dominique Lynch, who ran for 11 touchdowns, also returns.
The Jaguars didn’t lose many players to graduation, but almost two-thirds of the graduates played some wide receiver. That leaves Bowling, Henry Smith and Steven Parrish – who has started two years as free safety – to fill the void. The Jags’ defense is undersized, but the 3-3 defensive alignment lets Athens Drive make up for it with speed. As a result, the Jaguars had some of the top tacklers in the Triangle last year.
It starts with senior linebacker Daniel Riddle, the leading tackler in the Tri-9 with 157. Riddle will play some tight end this year as well.
The defense will also have defensive end Rafael Akinyemi (72 tackles), Parrish (92 tackles, six interceptions) and linebacker Ricky Stewart. Linebacker JayVaughn Oliver (115 tackles) will miss the first few weeks due to a back injury.
“We’re still our same prototypes there,” Martin said. “We’re not huge. But we’ve got guys who are pretty strong.”
Three-year starter Tommy Evanoff returns as punter and kicker.