MURFREESBORO – Ten new starters will be on the football field when Blackman begins its first offensive series against Clay-Chalkville, Alabama, Aug. 22 in the Middle Tennessee Football Classic presented by Venture Express.
However, those replacements are ready for the challenge.
“We all have chips on our shoulders for sure,” Blackman quarterback Miller Armstrong said. “We all respect the guys that were here last year and what they did for this program. But we’re definitely ready to prove ourselves.”
Armstrong started at linebacker in Blackman’s 3-4 defense in 2014 while backing up former quarterback Jauan Jennings, a Tennessee signee and Mr. Football winner. Armstrong was 3-of-7 passing for 79 yards with one touchdown and an interception in limited action.
However, he is far from being alone as newcomers on the field.
Matthew Leifheit, who started at tight end last season, is the lone starter returning. And he will play a new position this season after moving to tackle.
“I think they feel like they have a chip on their shoulders just because they are competitive,” Blackman first-year coach David Watson said. “Competitive kids want to prove themselves whether we have 10 starters returning or five.
“If we had 10 guys returning and Miller was the only one not returning, he would want to prove himself as a quarterback. It’s just natural.”
Blackman finished 11-2 in 2014, falling to Oakland in the Class 6A state quarterfinals. The Blaze were ranked statewide and nationally during the season.
Of the 10 starters who graduated, seven signed college football scholarships.
Joining Jennings as signees were Navy signees Charlie Davidson, Quentin Hardy and Ronnie Killings. Offensive linemen Caleb Lafleur and Micah Cale each signed with East Tennessee State and receiver Lorel Morton signed with Cumberland University.
Taeler Dowdy, who rushed for 380 yards on 55 carries as a junior, enters the season as the starter at running back. He said he believes the offense will be successful despite the new bodies.
“We are looking forward to proving people wrong,” Dowdy said. “People don’t think we can have a championship run.”
Dowdy said the offense hasn’t changed much with the new personnel and new head coach.
Blake Taylor, who reeled in a 46-yard TD reception for his lone catch of the season, acknowledged it will be difficult to replace the Blaze’s top three receivers from a year ago in Killings, Hardy and Morton. The trio combined for 87 catches and 1,547 yards with 19 TDs.
“They are great receivers, and all three are going to play college football,” Taylor said. “We have a lot of young players that are starting to step up.
“I played behind Ronnie Killings. He was a great mentor for me. He helped me become the player I hope to be this year.”
Contact Tom Kreager at 615-278-5168 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Kreager.