The Cannon County football team has managed just one win since the start of the 2010 season. The Lions are a combined 1-29 in that span.
In hopes of bucking that trend and ending a 20-game losing streak, the program will turn to its third different coach in as many years.
T.J. Daniel, who has been an assistant with the team for the last four seasons, enters his first season as coach of the Lions. He replaces Brent Bush, who spent one season at the helm.
“We’re trying to find our identity,” said Daniel, who was the team’s offensive coordinator last year. “I don’t really know what it will be yet.”
Daniel took his team to NaCoMe Camp in west Tennessee for a week during fall camp.
“We had about 20 practices in four days,” Daniel said. “I don’t know if there was another team in the state that did what we did. We beat the guys up and they really bonded as a team.”
“We didn’t have cell phones or computers or anything like that. It was an old school camp.”
It’s that bond that Daniel hopes will help his team end its long losing streak once the season starts against Middle Tennessee Christian Friday.
“I hate using the word young, but this is the first year I’ve been here that we really are young,” Daniel said. “We’ll have five or six freshman that contribute or start for us on a regular basis.”
Aside from the freshman Daniel expects to contribute this season, many of the other starters will be asked to play both ways too.
“We’ve got about 40 kids on the roster,” he said. “We’ve got to stay healthy in order to be able to compete.”
Offensively, the team is transitioning from a two tight end/I-Formation scheme to the Wing-T in 2013 after averaging just 8.1 points per game last season.
“I think with what we’ve got going back the Wing-T will give us a better chance to be successful.”
Daniel will get the opportunity to coach both of his younger brothers in the new system too.
B.J. Daniel, a senior, will be the team’s leading rusher and A.J. Daniel, a junior, will be the team’s quarterback.
It will be A.J. Daniel’s first season under center and the team’s fifth quarterback in as many seasons.
Senior Billy Deatcher and junior Wilder Mankin, who was a wide receiver last season, will also carry the ball out of the Wing-T.
“(Mankin) is definitely the fastest guy on the team,” Daniel said. “He’s one of the most athletic guys on the team too.”
Senior Dalton Ryan is the only starter returning on the offensive line. He’ll start at right tackle.
Freshmen Micah Fanoti and Travis Marlow will also start on the offensive line next to Ryan.
“We know they’re going to make mistakes and they’ve still got to work some things but I like the way they compete,” T.J. Daniel said of the freshman.
The other two spots were still in competition.
Defensively, the team will change to a 4-3 scheme from five-down linemen last season. The group allowed 37.6 points per game in 2012.
“It will be one of our strong suits this year,” Daniel said. “That’s where most of experience will be.”
Ryan anchors the defensive line at tackle. He’s a returning starter on defense. Deatcher fills one of the linebacker spots alongside Case Isenhart, a junior. Jonathan Smith is expected to contribute in the linebacker corps too, if the senior stays healthy.
Mankin, A.J. Daniel, B.J. Daniel and junior Ethan Smith play in the back half of the Lions defense too.
“A lot of our guys won’t come off the field.”
Simon Morey returns as the team’s kicker and punter. He filled both roles last season too.