St. George’s broke through last year in a big way beating previously undefeated Northpoint Christian for their second Division II-A state title since 2008. The win for the Gryphon also broke a four year dominance of Knoxville Webb who were upset in the first round of the playoffs by USJ.
Going into the 2016 season, St. George’s will be the team to beat thanks to 11 returning starters including three in their star studded offensive backfield. Reigning Division II-A Mr. Football back winner Chase Hayden returns to give the Gryphon a big weapon in the running game.
But it doesn’t end with Hayden as fellow senior Corey Jones is a very versatile player as well as senior quarterback Ben Glass to make opposing defenses look bad.
Although St. George’s is a spring favorite, several teams will have a say in crowning the Gryphon for a second straight season. Four of the five teams in the spring top five are from West Tennessee except for Knoxville Webb.
USJ will be an interesting team to watch especially on offense under new head coach Rusty Bradley who used his “Spread Coast” offense at CAK as the Warriors won back to back 3A state titles. Knoxville Webb winners of five state titles since 2009 should rebound from a very lackluster season in 2015.
Two more West Tennessee teams in Harding Academy and Lausanne should provide a road block for St. George’s as well.
For the fifth straight year, I will offer my Spring Top 5 teams in Division II-A this week.
My Top 10s are based on conversations with coaches in Division II-A across the state as well as returning personnel that the teams have back in 2016.
5. University of Jackson Bruins
Last Year’s Record- 9-4, lost to Northpoint Christian in Semifinals
Head Coach- Rusty Bradley (88-30 overall, 0-0 in first year at USJ)
Offensive Coordinator- Rusty Bradley
Defensive Coordinator- Jim Hardegree
Region- West 2
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 4/6
Offense- Spread Coast
Key Returnees- Trey Smith (OL, Sr.), Rhett Peel (OL/DL, Sr.), Wells Smith (WR/DB, Sr.), Ryan Miller (WR/LB, Jr.), Campbell Carlock (RB/LB, Sr.), Wesley Craig (WR/DB, Sr.). Thaddeus Puzdrakiewicz (WR/DB, Jr.), Griffin Laird (RB/DB, Jr.), Jacob Buie (QB, Jr.), Eli Garey (WR/DB, Jr.), Eli Brauss (RB/LB, Jr.), Myles Leffridge (RB/LB, Jr.), Miles Ingram (WR/DB, Jr.)
Key Losses- Easton Underwood (QB), Mitchell Bodiford (RB), Shaun Reid (OL/DL), William Jones (DB), Charles Campbell (K), Wells Smith (P)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Jacob Buie. The junior will take the controls of Rusty Bradley’s “Spread Coast” offense that had a ton of success while at CAK. If Buie picks up the offense quickly expect the Bruins to have a big season.
Spring Practice- April 18 – May 5
Spring Optimism- A new coach in Bradley brings new enthusiasm to the program. It doesn’t hurt that big time recruit in Trey Smith will be anchoring a good offensive line.
Spring Concerns- The biggest adjustment for the Bruins that they will have to use spring practice for will be learning the complicated offense that Bradley won two Class 3A state titles with at CAK.
4. Knoxville Webb Spartans
Last Year’s Record- 5-5, lost to USJ in first round
Head Coach- David Meske (243-118 in 30 years at Webb)
Offensive Coordinator- Clark Wormsley
Defensive Coordinator- Kevin Catlett
Region- East/Middle 1
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 8/8
Offense- Wing T
Key Returnees- Thomas Jordan (LB/FB, Sr.), Jahlil Jefferson (RB/DB, Soph.), Hunter Green (QB, Jr.), Juwaan Jefferson (RB/DB, Sr.), Andrew Favaro (K, Sr.), Sam Werner (OL/DL, Jr.), Jake Julian (OL/DL, Jr.), Jones Stamper (OL/DL, Jr.), Brody Leonard (LB/OL, Sr.), Jack Nadaud (TE/DE, Sr.), Morgan Ernst (FS, Jr., Transfer from Knox. Catholic)
Key Losses- Alexander Berube (RB/DB), Mason Staten (WR/DB), Andrew Craig (DE/TE), Nicholas Mitchell (LB) and Sam Seifert (OL)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Hunter Green. The junior will be the trigger man for the Spartan wing t offense and his play will determine how well the offense will do.
Spring Practice- May 16-30
Spring Optimism- Webb played several underclassmen last season and they return skill and speed to the running back position which has coach David Meske excited about the season.
Spring Concerns- The Spartans will use the spring to identify depth on both sides of the offensive and defensive lines.
3. Harding Academy Lions
Harding Academy Lions
Last Year’s Record- 10-3, lost to St. Georges in semifinals
Head Coach- Ryan Derrick (71-42, in 10 years at Harding)
Offensive Coordinator- Will Rickard
Defensive Coordinator- Ryan Derrick
Region- West 1
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 8/9
Key Returnees- Will Lawrence (OL, Jr.), Mason Harwell (DT, Sr.), Printess Smith (OL, Sr.), Calvin Austin (WR/DB, Sr.), Marquavious Moore (RB/FS, Sr.), Ty Kimberlin (WR/DB, Jr.), Hunter Morgan (LB/SS, Jr.), Jackson Cobb (WR/CB, Jr.), Nick Martin (WR/DB, Sr.), Bryant Lee (DL, Sr.), Sam Jennings (DE, Sr.), Antonio Chew (OL/DL, Sr.), Keilan Hulon (LB, Jr.),
Key Losses- Griffin Ritter (OL), Isaiah Cummings (DE), Zack Montgomery (QB, transferred to Oxford (MS)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Ty Kimberlin. The junior will be locked upon to make plays and provide depth in the Lion passing game.
Spring Practice- April 25-May 14
Spring Optimism- The Lions have a talented offensive line led by senior Will Lawrence as well as an 1,800 yard rusher returning in senior Marquavious Moore as well as wide receiver Calvin Austin.
Spring Concerns- Getting a quarterback comfortable in the offense after Zack Montgomery transferred to Oxford, Mississippi will be on top of Ryan Derrick’s spring to do list.
2. Lausanne Lynx
Last Year’s Record- 8-4, lost to St. Georges in Quarterfinals
Head Coach- Kevin Locastro (124-67 overall, 14-8 in two years at Lausanne)
Offensive Coordinator- Patrick Nagoski
Defensive Coordinator- Chris Jordan
Region- West 1
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense- 8/10
Key Returnees- Mario Nolan Dillard (QB, Sr.), Jarius Douglas (OL/DL, Sr.), Cameron Taylor (S, Sr.), James Babb (LB, Sr.), Nyle Love (LB, Jr.), Naseem Dove (LB, Sr.), Cameron Kinley (DB, Sr.), Josh Crawford (OL/DL, Jr.), Nyle Love (LB, Jr.), Jesse Neloms (WR, Sr.), Joe Barrett (OL/LB, Soph.), Mekhi Prince (DL, Sr.), Eric Gray (RB, Soph.), Gray Clark (FS, Jr.), Yusef Thomas (LB, Soph.), Devin Bodie (WR, Soph.)
Key Losses- Zach Stanford (OL), Addison Miller (DE), Adam Boyce (WR), Jacob Gubin (OL/DL)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Eric Gray. Gray will have the pressure of stepping in to be the primary ball carrier for the Lynx this season.
Spring Practice- Not having spring practice
Spring Optimism- This could be the year of the Lynx as they start their sixth year of the program’s existence as they return 18 starters including 10 on defense.
Spring Concerns- The Lynx will not hold spring practice and will have to figure out depth issues in the offensive line as well as find a punter and a kicker to handle special teams.
1. St. Georges Gryphon
Last Year’s Record- 13-1, defeated Northpoint Christian for state title
Head Coach- David Carter (35-16 overall, 29-10 in three years at St. George)
Offensive Coordinator- David Carter
Defensive Coordinator- Ben Todd
Region- West 2
Returning Starters on Offense/Defense-5/6
Key Returnees- Chase Hayden (RB/DB, Sr.), Ben Glass (QB, Sr.), Corey Jones (RB/FS, Sr.), Noah Pope (DE, Sr.), Met Proctor (DB/WR, Jr.), John Carter Hawkins (WR, Sr.), Dawson Smith (WR/DB, Sr.), Christian Lenoir (DL/TE, Sr.), Nick Bourdeau (LB, Jr.), Shon Wooten (DB, Sr.)
Key Losses- Ryan Young (OL), Spencer Glass (OL), Spencer Scofield (OL), Chris Hollis (OL/DL), Graham Hawthorne (DL/TE/K), Jake Lindow (LB/FB), Will Patterson (WR/DB)
Player(s) Looking To Step Up- Cameron Turner, Cameron Head, Colton Turner and Gaston Gill. All four sophomores will be expected to step up and start on an offensive line that has to be completely rebuilt.
Spring Practice- May 15-30
Spring Optimism- The Gryphon have skill players galore led by Division II-A Mr. Football back winner Chase Hayden as well as Corey Jones and quarterback Ben Glass as well as Noah Pope leading the defense.
Spring Concerns- The Gryphon have to replace their entire offensive line as graduation hit hard. They will have to mix four sophomores into five offensive line spots.
Five More Teams To Keep Your Eye On– BGA, DCA, FRA, Friendship Christian and Northpoint Christian
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