All-State wide receiver Tee Higgins is now enrolled at Clemson University and while the Wildcats offense lost a weapon it still has plenty left in the arsenal.
“It seems like rebuilding the offensive line is something we have to deal with every year but our quarterback [senior Johnny Stewart] is back after 11 starts last year, so that’s a positive and our primary running back [junior] Jordan Graham is back. That’s a plus as well,” said head coach Joe Gaddis.
“We have a lot of weapons. You would love to have Tee every year but with him gone, we might spread the ball around a little bit more and make it a little more difficult to defend us — at least on paper because you don’t know where the ball is going. Last year, you could pretty well be sure we were going to try to get it to Tee.”
“I hope our offense will be balanced but with Jordan [Graham] back there, we’re certainly going to try to get the ball in his hands quite a bit. He has the potential to break anything for a touchdown no matter where he is on the field,” Gaddis said.
Other key weapons are receivers Jeremy Mitchell (junior), Kai’Reese Pendergrass (junior), and Caelan Thompson (junior).
Sophomore Tyrell Romano also figures to get some carries at running back.
The offensive line returns senior Ramar Hawkins.
Gaddis said he feels good about his starters on the defensive side.
“We’re trying to develop some depth. Can we? That’s the million-dollar question. We’re like a lot of folks in that we can’t afford a key injury but we feel pretty good about our starting 11 on both sides of the ball,” he said.
Speed and overall quickness is the strength of the defense, Gaddis said.
All-Region punter senior Isaac Quick is back as is All-Region place kicker Carson McGhee.
“We feel solid about the kicking game,” he said.
“We’ve got some guys who will have to learn a lot and grow up quickly with our schedule the way it is. They are going to have to grow up maybe quicker than they imagined. Our schedule is very tough early. We play Hardin Valley, Dobyns-Bennett, Campbell County, and Farragut the first four games. That’s pretty rugged,” he said.
Gaddis also said the new Region 3-5A is very different and very talented. Whereas last year the Wildcats had to deal with eventual state champion Farragut as a region opponent, the Admirals move out and powerhouses like Fulton and Knox West step in.
“Knox West — especially defensively — is loaded. They’ve got good athletes and good size. Fulton is Fulton — very fast and very athletic. They are used to winning and winning big. The region is tougher top to bottom, even with Farragut out of it,” he said.