“I’ve never had as many injuries as I had last year. We just felt like if we could have been healthier we probably would have been a better team. To put that with this team, they worked a little harder this year — especially in the spring. We had a good spring up into workouts and conditioning. I'm just thinking if they keep a positive attitude toward each other, I think they're going to be pretty good as the season rolls in.”
- Anthony Jones, Notasulga head coach
“We're still young, but we're old.”
Although it sounds like an oxymoron, Notasulga head coach Anthony Jones’ assessment of his 2019 team is spot-on.
The Blue Devils were forced to play several underclassmen in 2018 due to injuries, which led to collective growing pains. Now, those young players come back having grown up a bit due to the circumstances.
Notasulga’s point man on offense will be Daryl Brown, the senior running back. Despite defenses knowing Brown was getting the ball, he routinely ran through opponents and ended the year with 1,754 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.
“When my quarterback (Walter Tatum) went down, everybody knew what we were doing,” Jones said. “(Brown) was still was running hard, running effortlessly, picking up big-time, tough yards for us and scoring touchdowns.”
Jones’ other points of focus are at wideout — which lost Jimmy Pitts from last season — and offensive line.
Nick Tatum, Tramont Jerido and Antonio Green have shown themselves capable catching passes, but Jones is eager to see them get better at blocking. The Blue Devils have several players in the mix on the line, including Tyquan Daniel, Jaheim Greer, Mason Barker, Mandaris Hayden, Jerel and Terel Crayton.
Few players in the area can find the ball as often as senior middle linebacker Jaheim Greer. A two-time All-State linebacker, Greer routinely racks up double-digit tackles and is expected to shine in his final season with the Blue Devils.
“I always told people he was going to be good and he was going to be special,” Jones said of Greer. “We call him 'The Machine' for a reason. I don't really think he's human. I'm just grateful to have him on my team, and I can't believe that these four years have flown by so quickly.”
Greer isn’t alone as a difference maker in the middle of Notasulga’s defense. Outside linebacker Tramont Jerido returns off a 96-tackle season and will be joined out on the edges by Joshua Rayborn. Jerel Crayton will join Greer in the middle, and LaBragette Naan and Elisha Smith are expected to contribute at outside linebacker/defensive end.
The secondary also loses Pitts, but Tatum is back and healthy to play corner. Nick Tatum and Antonio Green are also back to leave the Blue Devils’ secondary with an experienced bunch sure to keep Notasulga in contention in a competitive region.