File photo by Rick Nation
When you have got two quarterbacks returning that threw for over 1,000 yards and a running back set for his senior season after gaining nearly 1,500 yards, it looks like your team ought to be awfully good on offense.
But, as is the case with any football team, you’ve got to have the facilitators for those guys, an offensive line that will protect those quarterbacks and open holes for the running back.
That’s will be the key for the Bryant Hornets in 2018.
Senior Ren Hefley, despite missing much of the season, threw for just shy of 1,900 yards with 19 touchdowns. In his stead, then-sophomore Jake Meaders threw for 1,082 yards and seven scores. And LaTavion Scott rushed for 1,423 yards and 11 touchdowns.
As for this year’s offensive line?
“They’ve worked hard all summer,” stated Bryant offensive line coach Shane Clancy. “There’s some little things we’ve got to clean up like last year. I hope we stay under the radar and in the win column.”
A trio of linemen return after getting considerable playing time last year. Blaise Smith got the most time at guard and tackle.
“Blaise and Logan Burton and McElyea played a lot last year so, hopefully, their leadership will help, along with Jake Burton, really getting his first significant varsity action, and Tanner Wilson and Austin Trimble,” Clancy said.
Trimble and Josh Stevens, who has played some over the last two years, are vying for the starting assignment at center.
“We have potential, we just haven’t done it yet,” said Clancy.
“Ren’s bringing all the experience to the table, plus winning this game two times,” said quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Kirk Bock, referring to the Salt Bowl, Bryant’s annual season-opening battle with rival Benton.
“But then we’ve got Jake Meaders and Austin Ledbetter,” Bock continued. “Austin Ledbetter, Austin Schroeder and Aiden Adams did a tremendous job (in the JV team’s 49-0 win on Monday) in Pine Bluff.
“We’re strong at quarterback,” he stated. “We’ve got some depth there for a change. But I think Ren will handle the game very well. He’s been there and done it.”
Meaders has actually been moved to wide receiver and had a strong showing at Pulaski Academy when the Hornets scrimmaged there in advance of the season. He’s one of several new receivers moving into the starting lineup.
“We’ve got a bunch of young guys that are going to have to step up this year,” acknowledged receivers coach Terrence Heaggans. “We’ve got three guys that haven’t ever played very much in Treyvun Herron, Josh Robinson and River Gregory, a sophomore that’s shown some good stuff in fall camp. And Jake — he’s got a chance to be a great player for us at receiver.
“We’ve also got another senior Grant Botti, a junior Jaeger Burks and a couple more sophomores in Miles Aldridge and Hayden Schrader,” he noted. “They’ve shown some potential in spring ball and in fall camp, also in our JV game. We’re hoping for big things from them.”
Running backs coach Adam Pendergrass said, “LaTavion is a returning as an All-State running back who’s added about 10 pounds over the off-season. And he’s faster than he was. He does a great job at everything we ask him to do, blocking, running, catching the ball.
“Braylon Butler’s gotten bigger and stronger,” he noted. “He’s had a real good August, fall camp. He’s done well. Then you’ve got Ahmad Adams. He’s going to be on defense but he’s able to jump in and get plays on offense.
“We feel real good about those three guys,” the coach stated. “We’ve got some young kids that have done good. Jaylun Davis played real well (Monday) but I don’t know if they’re really ready to play on Friday night.”
Of the offense, overall, Bock related, “Now we’re starting to get better every day. And I don’t know if it’s just the focus of once we’ve played somebody besides ourselves (but) they’re starting to see the big picture and they’re getting better every day. Some of the small things that we were messing up on, they’re starting to clean up themselves.”