For the second consecutive season, a school will try to defend a state title with a new head coach. Richie Wessman replaces Will Hester as the Ravenwood coach after the Raptors defeated Maryville to win the Class 6A title. Hester resigned at Ravenwood and is the new athletic director and head football coach at the new Nolensville high school that will open its doors next year.
In 2014, two coaches in Ricky Woods (Peabody) and Scott Cummings (Knoxville West) led their teams to the schools first state championship then left to coach other programs as Woods is now coaching at Starksville (MS), while Cummings is currently at Cleveland. Can Ravenwood repeat as state champions with two different coaches?
Repeating with two different coaches has happened before as John Reid led Alcoa to a state title in 2005 then left to coach in Georgia while current Tornado coach Gary Rankin led Alcoa to the 2006 state title in his first year as head coach. The repeat will be difficult as the Raptors return only six starters including just one on the defensive side of the ball. Here are three teams that should be considered threats to knock Ravenwood off their perch is:
*Maryville- The Rebels have made the finals every year since the field expanded to six classifications in 2009 and have won 6A state titles in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014.
*Oakland- The Patriots under second year coach Kevin Creasy lost to Maryville in the semifinal round in 2015 and will return a ton of skill players including two way player in JaCoby Stevens.
*Whitehaven- Like Oakland, the Tigers made the semifinals last year and return 13 starters from a 12 win team in 2015.
For the fifth straight year, I will offer my Spring Top 10 teams in each classification looking at Class 5A this week.
My Top 10s are based on conversations with coaches in 5A across the state as well as returning personnel that the teams have back in 2016.
10. Bradley Central Bears
Last Year’s Record- 7-4, lost to Riverdale in first round
Head Coach- Damon Floyd (54-53 in 10 years at Bradley)
Offensive Coordinator- Keith Freeman
Defensive Coordinator- Damon Floyd
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense-8/7
Offense- No Huddle Spread
Key Returnees-Cole Copeland (QB, Sr.), Cason Still (S, Sr.), Jake Tolleson (LB, Sr.), Jake Presley (S, Jr.), Hunter Duggan (LB, Sr.), Jay Person (LB, Jr.), Henley Headrick (LB, Jr.), Kevin Gentry (DL, Jr.), Maliek Whaley (DL, Sr.) Chris Keller (OL, Sr.), Tyler Collier (OL, Jr.), Christopher Cash (OL, Jr.), Trevon Hill (WR, Sr.), Nick Howell (WR, Jr.) Lamerick Tucker (WR, Jr.), Adam Mullis (RB, Jr.), Devin Moore (RB, Jr.),
Key Losses- Tyler Carpenter (WR), Colby Alford (LB), Ryan Still (LB), Trevon Ware (DB), DJ Adams (OL), Konner Swafford (OL), Kaleb Swafford (OL), Hunter Wilson (OL)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Chris Keller, Tyler Collier and Christopher Cash. The trio will be counted on to step up and stabilize the Bear offensive line after losing three starters due to graduation.
Spring Practice- May 3-20
Spring Optimism- The Bears return senior quarterback Cole Copeland who passed for almost 2,500 yards last season and 26 touchdowns as well and three of his top targets return in Trevon Hill, Nick Howell and Lamerick Tucker.
Spring Concerns- Bradley brings back 15 starters and don’t really have any gaping holes but coach Damon Floyd would feel a ton better if they can develop depth on both sides of the ball.
9. Arlington Tigers
Last Year’s Record- 6-5, lost to McGavock in first round
Head Coach- Adam Sykes (6-5 in one year at Arlington)
Offensive Coordinator- Adam Sykes
Defensive Coordinator- Andrew Atkins
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 6/7
Key Returnees-Tate Kolwyck (QB, Jr.), Chris Jackson (DL, Sr.), Brandon Parker (LB, Sr.), Tavarious Foster (RB, Sr.), Trevor White (OL, Sr.), Thomas Cornelius (DL, Sr.), Jordan Jackson (OL, Sr.), Logan Feathers (LB, Jr.), Nick Fortner (LB, Sr.), Cezanne Bush (DB, Jr.), Caleb Nelson (WR, Jr.), Hunter Goodman (WR/P, Jr.)
Key Losses- Gary Miller (LB), Keelon Webber (RB), Bryan Lewis II (WR), Cameron Freeman (OL), Everritt Mitchell (WR), Justin Robbins (WR)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Caleb Nelson and Hunter Goodman. The junior duo will be counted on heavily to lead a receiving corps that was hit heavily by graduation.
Spring Practice- April 18-May 6
Spring Optimism- The Tigers return junior Tate Kolwyck, a Vanderbilt baseball commitment to start his third year at quarterback and will have a veteran offensive line to protect him this year.
Spring Concerns- Arlington lost their top four pass catchers from a year ago and will use to spring to find pass catchers to solidify the position.
8. Smyrna Bulldogs
Last Year’s Record- 9-4, lost to Oakland in Quarterfinals
Head Coach- Matt Williams (54-40 in eight years at Smyrna)
Offensive Coordinator- Steve Williams
Defensive Coordinator- Billy Coleman and Scot Keasler
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 5/3
Offense – Spread No Huddle
Key Returnees- John Turner (QB, Sr.), Casey Perkins (RB/DB, Sr.), Deylon Williams (LB, Sr.), Danny Fiorrella (OL, Sr.), Jordan Higgins (OL, Sr.), Bryce McKay (OL, Sr.), Devin Sims (RB/DB, Sr.), Peyton Manus (LB/RB, Sr.), Blake Watkins (RB/DB, Soph.), Jose Baeza (K, Soph.), Quentin Smith (DL, Jr.), Jordan Vaughn (DL, Jr.), Jovan Joseph (DL, Sr.), Percy Whittaker (WR/DB, Sr.)
Key Losses- Josh Baker (OL), Austin Brown (RB/LB) Ikenna Okeke (WR/DB), Victor Mendoza (OL), Jordan Jones (DB/WR), Antonio Robinson (DT/OG), Jordan McCroskey (DE), Kyle Cooper (LS)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Peyton Manus. The senior will step in to a starring role at linebacker as the Bulldogs have to replenish starters at that position.
Spring Practice-April 26-May 16
Spring Optimism- The Bulldogs return a dynamic duo in the backfield with John Turner at quarterback as well as Casey Perkins at running back that should give defenses fits again this year.
Spring Concerns- Smyrna will have to find starters at linebacker and at safety on defense and will have to find starters and establish some depth on the offensive line.
7. Cordova Wolves
Last Year’s Record- 8-3, lost to Wilson Central in first round
Head Coach- Anthony Jones (33-22 overall, 18-14 in three seasons at Cordova)
Offensive Coordinator- Carlos Locklyn
Defensive Coordinator- Dominique Bowman
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense-5/8
Key Returnees-Quinton Bohanna (DL, Sr., Kentucky commitment), Braylon Brown (DL, Sr., Memphis commitment), Ahmad Richardson (DB, Sr.), Edward Johnson (WR, Sr.), Harold Lacy (RB, Sr.), Devin Coleman (QB, Sr.), Caleb Clear (DB, Sr., Transfer from Memphis Central), Shemar Collier (WR, Sr.), Nathan Adams (OL, Sr.), Myron Henderson (OL, Sr.), Trevion Ross (DL, Sr.), Jeremiah Fordham (LB, Sr.), Jevon Connor (LB, Jr.), Dazerius Bohanna (FS, Sr.)
Key Losses- Kalan Miller (WR), Micah Moreland (QB), Cedric Carter (SS), Jose Hernandez (K)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Edward Johnson and Shemar Collier. The seniors will be called upon to shepherd a young receiving corps after losing their top pass catchers.
Spring Practice- April 25- May 10
Spring Optimism- Defensively, the Wolves will be very stout on defense led by Division I commitments on the defensive line in Kentucky commitment Quinton Bohanna and Memphis commitment Braylon Brown. The secondary is super athletic and boosted by Memphis Central transfer Caleb Clear.
Spring Concerns- Cordova will use spring practice to address their offensive line and find starters and depth at wide receiver after losing a bulk of their starters last season.
6. Franklin Rebels
Last Year’s Record- 8-4, lost to Wilson Central in second round
Head Coach- Donnie Webb (43-52 overall, 28-16 in four years at Franklin)
Offensive Coordinator- Dan Winfree
Defensive Coordinator- Donnie Webb
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 8/6
Key Returnees-Caden Williams (OL, Sr.), Mitch Rossi (LB, Sr.), Conner Palk (DE, Sr.), Zach Polisky (LB, Sr.), Harrison Brown (LB, Sr.), Vaughn Hamill (OL, Sr.), Alex Gaca (WR, Sr.), J.P Batarseh (WR, Sr.), Max Wray (OL, Jr.), Ben McLendon (OL, Sr.), Max Page (TE, Sr.)
Key Losses- Kyle Evans (QB/DB), Lannom Craddock (RB/DB), Hunter Rosin (WR/DB), Cameron Vogt (DT)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Wes Patterson and Carter Hendry. Patterson, a senior and Hendry, a junior will be competing for the starting quarterback job over spring practice.
Spring Practice- April 20-May 6
Spring Optimism- The Rebels return eight starters on offense including four starters on the line and all three starting wide receivers, and all three starters at linebackers.
Spring Concerns- Franklin will have to find three of four starters on the defensive line and will have to find answers in the secondary as well.
5. Blackman Blaze
Last Year’s Record- 10-3, lost to Maryville in Quarterfinals
Head Coach- David Watson (35-50 overall, 10-3 in first season at Blackman)
Offensive Coordinator- David Watson
Defensive Coordinator- Kit Hartsfield
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 5/5
Offense- Multiple Spread
Key Returnees-Anthony Ochoa (LB, Sr.), Amauri Burks (RB, Jr.), Master Teague (RB/DB, Jr.), Thomas Burks (K, Jr.), Joseph Sewell (TE, Sr.), Jeremiah Wade (WR/DB, Sr.), James Brown (LB, Sr.), Queontez Pugh (WR/DB, Sr.), Matthew Hartley (OL, Sr.), Dylan Heath (OL, Sr.) Ibrahim Qadir (DB, Jr.), Corry Rankins (WR/DB, Jr.), Rico Banks (LB, Sr.) Conner Mitchell (QB, Jr.) Demondre Ogleton (DL, Sr.)
Key Losses- Matthew Leifheit (OL/TE), Justin Brown (DL), Korey Tilman (DL), Angelo Derrick (DL), Sam Thompson (LB), Blake Taylor (DB), Miller Armstrong (QB/LB), Taeler Dowdy (RB/DB), Sam Luker (LB), Darius Simple (WR/DB), Michael Harris (WR/LB),
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Conner Mitchell. The junior will step in the starting quarterback spot and will looked upon to step up and take pressure off the Blaze running game.
Spring Practice- April 25-May 13
Spring Optimism- The Blaze are blessed with tons of athletes at the skill positions including juniors Amauri Burks and Master Teague at running back and Joseph Sewell at tight end.
Spring Concerns- Blackman will need to replace all three down lineman on defense and find depth as well. Getting Mitchell comfortable running the Blaze offense in the spring will be a big key as well.
4. Whitehaven Tigers
Last Year’s Record- 12-2, lost to Ravenwood in semifinals
Head Coach- Rodney Saulsberry (121-30 in 12 years at Whitehaven)
Offensive Coordinator- Clarence Dilliard
Defensive Coordinator- Errol Harmon
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 7/6
Key Returnees- J’len Smith (LB/TE, Sr.), Aubrey Miller (LB/RB, Sr.), Tyler Walton (DT/OL, Sr.), Shabar Wilson (DL/FB, Sr.), Jabril Malone (DB/RB, Sr.), Anthony Geter (OL/DL, Sr.), Darrick Jackson (OL/DL, Sr.), William Whitfield (OL/DL, Sr.), Kylan Watkins (ATH, Sr.), CJ Biggins (WR, Jr.), Cormontae Hamilton (TE/LB, Soph.), Vontavious Thacker (LB, Sr.), Deniro Tillman (DB, Sr.), Tyrone Cason (FB, Sr.), Devon Robinson (LB/TE, Jr.)
Key Losses- Kerrick Jones (WR/DB), Donte Vaughn (DB/ATH), Rodney Saulsberry Jr. (DB/P), Delvin Salter (OL), Jamecole Banks (OL/DL), Ayron Thompson (RB), Myles Sails (OL/DL), Martavius Williams (LB), Micheal Perry (DT), Darrion Cole (QB), Rashun Bates (DB)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Whitehaven has a full blown quarterback competition on their hands as seniors Austin Harris and Lesley Mosby as well as sophomore Vincent Guy will compete to see who will run the Tiger offense.
Spring Practice-April 19-May 5
Spring Optimism- The Tigers have athletes and depth on both sides of the line as well as at running back and good speed at wide receiver.
Spring Concerns- Whitehaven will have to replace the entire secondary as all four starters signed to play college football.
3. Oakland Patriots
Last Year’s Record- 12-2, lost to Maryville in semifinals
Head Coach- Kevin Creasy (91-14 overall, 12-2 in one year at Oakland
Offensive Coordinator- Kevin Creasy
Defensive Coordinator- Stephen Jackson
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense-4/6
Offense- Wing T
Key Returnees- JaCoby Stevens (WR/DB, Sr.), Lazarius Patterson (RB, Sr.), Brendan Matthews (QB, Sr.), Kaleb Oliver (S, Sr.), Jackson Cauthen (LB, Sr.), D’Andre Litaker (DT, Jr.), Chris Onwumere (FB/DL, Jr.), Wanya Moton (FS, Sr.), Elijah Dobbins (OL, Sr.), Quantez Parks (LB, Sr.), Aaron Sears (K, Jr.), Justice Dingle (DE, Jr.)
Key Losses- Ty Nix (DT), Hudson Smith (OT), Mark Pruitt (DB/WR), Kendrick Johnson (RB), Cameron Newman (DB), Turrell Ward (DE),
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Chris Onwumere. The junior is undersized to play defensive tackle but he is a relentless player that plays hard which is exactly the type of player that thrives in coach Kevin Creasy’s defensive system.
Spring Practice-May 4-20
Spring Optimism- The Patriot have some very talented skill players on offense led by quarterback Brendan Matthews, running back Lazarius Patterson and wide receiver JaCoby Stevens.
Spring Concerns- Oakland will have to find starters and depth on both sides of the line as graduation losses were heavy on both sides.
2. Maryville Rebels
Last Year’s Record- 14-1, lost to Ravenwood in state final
Head Coach- George Quarles (237-15 in 17 years at Maryville)
Offensive Coordinator- David Ellis
Defensive Coordinator- Jeremy Russell and Nick White
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 4/5
Key Returnees- T. D. Blackmon (LB, Sr.), Dylan Hopkins (QB, Jr.), Jordan Ervin (RB, Sr.), Christian Markham (WR, Jr.), Jacob Wall (OL, Jr.), Trejuan Purty (DE, Sr.), Blake Oliveira (DL, Sr.), Ramadan Gibril (DB, Sr.), Matt Young (DE, Sr.), Isaiah Cobb (RB/LB, Jr.), Blake Watson (TE/DE, Jr.), Matthew Cone (K, Sr.)
Key Losses- Brian Tillery (WR), Tyler Zwolinski (LB), Lakin McCall (OL), Kelby Brock (WR/S), Colton Murrell (DL), Drake Martin (DB), Josh Yoakum (S), Joel Hopkins (RB), Harper Rose (OL), Wesley Ferguson (OL), Josh Wall (OL), Zach Payne (DL)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Christian Markham. Markham is the lone starter returning at wide receiver for the Rebels and he will be counted on to bring stability to the position.
Spring Practice- Already Finished Spring Practice
Spring Optimism- Maryville returns all three defensive lineman in their 3-4 defense as well as senior middle linebacker T.D. Blackmon. Junior quarterback Dylan Hopkins should be more comfortable in his second year as starter.
Spring Concerns- The Rebels will have to replace four starters on the offensive line as well as finding three starters in the defensive secondary including both safety positions.
1. Ravenwood Raptors
Last Year’s Record- 14-1, beat Maryville for state title
Head Coach- Richie Wessman (0-0 in first year at Ravenwood)
Offensive Coordinator- TBA
Defensive Coordinator-Ryan Fowler
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 5/1
Key Returnees- Patrick Leitten (OL, Sr.), Nathan Freeman (WR, Sr.), Connor Dodson (OL, Sr.), Drew Harmon (OL, Jr.), Tavion Mills (OL, Sr.) Tahj Williams (LB, Sr.)
Key Losses- Sean Spence (LB), Andrew Lutgens (SS), Chris Rowland (RB), Connor Cassin (OL), Brad Bloedorn (DE), Andrew Rappe (QB), John Thompson (RB), Drew Hughes (WR), Lucas Bangerter (WR), Nelson Smith (OL), Tanner Eatherly (OL/LB), Nick Harper (DB), Zack Stallcup (DB), Nate Stoner (FS) Zach Erickson (DB) Connor Jeffries (RB), Jordan Moore (DL), Crews Holt (K), Grayson Linde (P),
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Drew Harmon. The junior offensive lineman started as a sophomore last season and will be expected to provide leadership on a very talented offensive line.
Spring Practice- April 29-May 13
Spring Optimism- The Raptors under new coach Richie Wessman will enter spring practice with five starters returning including four of those on the offensive line, which will help as they need to find starters at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.
Spring Concerns- Linebacker Tahj Williams is the lone returning starter on defense and the first order of business for new defensive coordinator Ryan Fowler is to find 10 starters on the Raptor defense.
Eight More Teams To Keep Your Eye On- Dobyns Bennett, McGavock, Mt. Juliet, Nashville Overton, Riverdale, Science Hill, White Station and Wilson Central.
Contact Donovan at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at Examine_Stew