There isn’t much Tom Adkins has not seen in his 26 seasons coaching football at Jo Byrns.
This year’s challenges of replacing a 1,000-yard rusher, beefing up a depleted offensive line and finding an answer at quarterback are nothing new for him.
“We’re going to be a young team,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure out who’s going to play where.”
The Red Devils spent spring practice trying to determine starters on the offensive line. Matthew Henegar has locked down the center spot, and Rudy Tucker will play guard, but the other three positions are still up for grabs.
“We’re platooning, moving people in and out and trying to see which five work the best together,” Adkins said. “We’re a little smaller than we usually are, but we’ve been successful with small linemen pretty much my whole career.”
Quarterback is also a question mark. Although senior Cooper Richards was the starter last year, sophomore Ryan Dowlen put together an impressive spring to push for playing time.
“That may turn into a competition,” Adkins said. “I’ve never played two QB’s. I don’t like a two-QB system. But that’s not to say we won’t do that this year.”
Tailback Jake Chennault has perhaps the biggest shoes to fill. The junior returns after missing half of the 2018 season with a dislocated elbow. He will receive the bulk of the carries left by 1,000-yard rusher Eric Herring (Culver-Stockton signee), along with help from junior Eli Farmer.
Chennault scored the team’s lone touchdown in their spring scrimmage against White House Heritage, though Jo Byrns’ lack of physicality on the line was exposed by the Patriots.
“We struggled up front against Heritage,” Adkins said. “They’re a 4A program and were more physical up front. We had trouble stopping the run.”
The Red Devils still have time to settle on a permanent depth chart. Adkins is hopeful that his team can stay healthy after Herring, Chennault and Marcelino Neria all had surgeries during the 2018 season.
“Staying healthy is always a concern, especially at the 1A level,” he said. “Last year we had three tailbacks miss playing time. I hope we can avoid that this year.”
Jo Byrns travels to McEwen for a scrimmage on Aug. 2. The Red Devils will also host Westmoreland on Aug. 9 and play DCA in the Robertson County Jamboree on Aug. 16.
“You really can’t get experience until you get out there and play,” Adkins said. “We’ve got to develop some leadership out of our seniors and have some younger kids step up.”