Blackman first-year coach Watson concerned about schedule
by Monte Hale, Jr. Murfreesboro Post Sports Editor & All Sports Talk Host
Blackman football will have a new look in a lot of ways this season.
Gone is veteran coach Philip Shadowens, who resigned last spring and later hired at Blount County.
However, the Blaze will have a familiar look as former assistant David Watson is now the head coach.
The newness will actually be in Blackman's starting lineup, particularly on offense where the Blaze lost 10 starters. Among them was quarterback and Mr. Football winner Jauan Jennings, who signed at Tennessee.
The Blaze will start five seniors up front, while senior Miller Armstrong will take over at quarterback. Watson expects the running game to be a strength with senior Taeler Dowdy and sophomore Master Teague.
"We've got a lot of seniors on offense, and our quarterback played some last year," Watson said. "Dowdy played about a third of the time last year. A lot of our receivers were second-teamers last year, but not go-to guys. It's the same with the offensive line.
"We have a lot of guys that have game experience. We'll sprinkle in some outstanding sophomores. It concerns you a bit, but they're the best athletes that we have. They're more talented than some of the kids that are older.
"We feel like the strength of our offense is our tailbacks. We feel like they're as good as anyone in our league. Master is a rising star and has speed and power. Dowdy has great speed, and our quarterback can run and is a dual-threat guy."
Defensively, the Blaze should be a very sound and athletic group, especially when you consider the entire dominant defensive front returns in Angelo Derrick, Korey Tillman, Justin Brown, Trey Johnson and Taylor Johnson.
The linebackers are outstanding, led by Anthony Achoa, James Brown and Sam Luker.
The secondary is talented, but inexperienced other than Dowdy.
"Our defense should be a strength because we have the entire D-line coming back, two linebackers coming back and a senior in the secondary. Our defensive front should be dominant."
One of Watson's main concerns going into the season will be developing more depth on both sides of the ball.
"I hate to look up and see that one of our best wide receivers is a safety and one of our best receivers is a corner," he said. "It's hard to take kids and play them both ways and make them 100 percent on both sides.
"You have to have another guy to step in and not have a drop off. You have to manage injuries. We have to create depth in practice."
The Blaze lost a lot of talent from last year's state quarterfinals team, but they should be in the mix for a region championship in 2015. A brutal schedule might not truly reflect their talent in the win-loss ledger, but the Blaze could be a very dangerous team when the playoffs begin.
"I think there is a lot of talent," Watson said. "Some us young and some inexperienced. My only concern is our schedule. There are three teams outside our district -- Clay Chalkville (Alabama), Tucker, Georgia, and McCallie -- that have a chance to win their state in their division.
"You normally like to have one of those teams. Our team will be fine, though. Our record may not show it early, but with the way they've set it up we're already in the playoffs. We could be a 6-4 team that could be one of the best in the state based on who we're playing. We have to find a way to manage that schedule, keep our morale up and keep improving each week until we reach week 11 and start the playoffs."
RB: Taeler Dowdy, Sr.; Master Teague, So.
WR: Blake Taylor, Sr.; Eric Hailey, Sr.; Darius Simple, Sr.; Connor Mitchell, So.; Amauri Burks, So.
TE: Joeseph Sewell, Jr.; Luke Plunkett, Sr.
OL: Matthew Leifheit, Sr.; Julian Shanklin, Sr.; Cameron Curtis, Sr., Myles Hoard, Sr.; Malik Jordan, Sr. (Key back-ups: Dylan Heath, Jr.; Matthew Hartley, Jr., Queshawn Blair, Sr.
DL: Angelo Derrick, Sr.; Korey Tillman, Sr.; Justin Brown, Sr.; Trey Johnson, Sr.; Taylor Johnson, Sr.
LB: Anthony Ochoa, Jr.; James Brown, Sr.; Sam Luker, Sr.; Michael Harris, Sr.; Donnel Bailey, So.
DB: Jeremiah Wade, Jr.; Amauri Burks, So.; Taylor Dowdy, Sr.; Cory Rankins, So.
S: Blake Taylor, Sr.; Darius Simple, Sr., Ibrahiam Quadir, So.
K, P: Thomas Burks, So.
Kickoffs: Michael Dimartino, Jr.