The Bryant Hornets freshman football team opens the 2015 season tonight at 7 p.m., against the Little Rock McClellan Junior Crimson Lions at Bryant Stadium.
The Hornets are the combination of last year’s 7-0 Bethel Middle School (Bryant Blue) team and the 5-3 Bryant Middle School (Bryant White) team.
“I don’t know how we’re going to be,” said Hornets coach Kenny Horn, who begins his eighth year leading the freshman program. “We did not look real good against Pine Bluff (in a preseason scrimmage on Tuesday, Aug. 25) but we think there were things that we can fix. I think we played football pretty good but we just didn’t do other stuff good. We didn’t communicate well. We didn’t line up right.
“This week, we’ve really focused on our communication,” he related. “Early this week, I think we looked pretty good.”
Horn said he felt like the strength of his team is skill players.
“We’ve got a ton of skill guys,” he said. “Our overall team speed — we’re pretty fast. We’ve got some guys that are big but we don’t have a lot of them. So we’re not very deep there as opposed to our backs and receivers. We’re real deep there.”
Offensively, Randy Thomas will start at quarterback.
“He’s a pretty good athlete so for him to have the ball all the time is probably the best place to put him,” Horn said. “I really want to use him at receiver and running back but I think we’ve got to do it there.
“Hunter Ulmer and Jaylon Dickson are pretty good guys too at quarterback,” he added. “There’s a lot of years I’d have begged for either one of them but we’ve got a guy that’s pretty good.”
Jake Wright is an inside receiver. Andrew Hayes is the slot receiver.
“Andrew’s also going to start at corner for us,” Horn mentioned. “He’s a pretty good football player.”
Josh Robinson will work on the other side at wideout.
“He’s a 6-2 guy, runs a 4.6, and can catch,” the coach said. “He’s straight-line fast and has got some ability.”
Grant Botti, a former running back, has looked good at the Y receiver spot.
“He likes it out there and we like him out there,” Horn said. “He catches the ball good.”
The coach said the running back spot will be manned by committee with K.J. Terry, Tyler O’Neal and Keethan Hudson getting touches while they also rotate in defensively.
“I like all three of them,” Horn said. “Coach (Travis) Queck (offensive coordinator) likes all three of them. Whoever’s got the ball has got the ball. We’re just going to try to keep them fresh.”
On the line, the coach said, “We’re going to use Logan Burton at tackle, Josh Salgueiro at guard. Our center is still kind of up in the air. We’ve got Austin Trimble and we’re going to use Josh Stevens. Logan Reed’s been our other guard and Blaise Smith’s been our other tackle but he’s on injured reserve right now so we’re going to use Nate Wallace in there.
“All of those guys are pretty good-sized kids,” Horn said. “A lot of high school teams would like to have guys that sized. They’re pretty solid in there and they’ve probably got it figured out a little bit better than we have in the past at this point. I feel pretty good about them. I like those guys.”
Overall, Horn related, “This year, I think we’re going to run it a little more than we’re going to throw it. We’ve got the athletes that match-up pretty good in space. We’re going to throw it. I’ve never had a group of guys that can catch the ball like this group. It’s a big group. There’s a lot of them.”
Defensively, the coach likes his team’s speed as well.
“Traditionally, your slower guys are your interior guys and that holds true for us,” he related. “Every one of our guys are fast except for our two interior guys. They’re pretty good-sized kids.”
Those two, primarily, will be Preston Carter and Michael Chatmon. Patrick Karp will start at one end. At the other, Alex White and Xavion Jackson are vying for playing time.
“Michael’s 6-3, 200-plus pounds and has long arms,” the coach pointed out.
Hudson doubles up as a linebacker with Logan Grant. Jakob Neel in the middle with O’Neal working the weakside.
“He’s going to hit you,” Horn said of Neel. “Both of our outside guys are little bit undersized but they’re extremely fast. If you’re not going to be big, it’s good to be fast.”
Terry will be at strong safety with Dickson at free safety with Thomas helping out. Robinson and Coby Greiner, Sebastian Dunn and Hayes will play at corner.
“We’re going to try to get guys rest,” Horn said. “Hopefully, we can get this down to a two-platoon deal, offense-defense, but, right now, we’re going to try to get our best 11 out there. Those are the guys that we think are our best right now.”
Martin Ramirez will handle placements and Grant will do the punting.
“Ramirez has a big leg,” said Horn. “He’s not real accurate right now but he can kick it a long ways.”
Last year, the Hornets won the Central Arkansas Junior High Conference championship, going 9-1 overall and 8-1 versus the league.
“We feel like we’re going to compete for it,” Horn said of the 2015 title prospects. “Every year that’s our goal. You want to win 10 games.”