WAYNESBORO — Derek McDaniel has watched scores of players go through his football programs at both Wilson Memorial and Waynesboro.
However, as McDaniel prepares his Little Giants for the 2016 campaign, there are more than just holes to fill in his lineup. He has to find a way to replace a nucleus of players who led Waynesboro to two straight playoff berths after a 15-year drought.
Gone are linebacker/offensive tackle Tyshawn Brooks, quarterback Chris Baker, running backs Steffan Thornton and Dominique Gray, and offensive tackle Luke Gibson. Last year, Brooks and Thornton were all-City/County first-teamers, while Baker was a second-teamer.
“It’s kind of a weird situation this year,” McDaniel said. “We didn’t lose a lot of people, but we lost six players who were the core of the team. From that aspect, it’s a big loss.”
However, the good news is McDaniel has 18 players back from last year’s team that finished the regular season with three straight wins to finish 6-4 before falling to Monticello in the first round of the Region 3A West playoffs.
The uncertainty lies in the 22 new players out for the team, some of whom have never played.
Yes, I have 40 kids, but you can’t just throw people out there,” McDaniel said. “They have to know what they’re doing. I tell the kids all the time that if you want to be a good football player, you have to know what you’re doing.”
Five things that must happen for Waynesboro to be successful:
Moore moves from the end to behind center this year and McDaniel likes what he’s seen so far from the senior. Moore saw time at quarterback early last season when Baker was sidelined with an injury.
The task for the Little Giants is to find the player, or players, who will do what Moore did for Baker last year.
“I have all the confidence in the world in DaJuan,” he said. “But we also have two younger players at quarterback who are going to have to be ready to step up if DaJuan gets hurt. We have to get them to the level where we can put them in a game and have confidence in their ability to run the offense.
Develop a second-tier
“We’re thin,” McDaniel frankly said when talking about his team’s depth. “We have to develop a second tier of players who we can be comfortable with when we put them in a game.”
Returning players such as split end Jadaciss Williams, linemen Daniel Everidge and Jaylen Simmons, tight end Savion Jackson and running backs DeQuoindre Clark and Marendon Jones will see the bulk of the playing time at their positions.
The dilemma is who will play in place of those players if they get hurt or simply need a breather on the sidelines.
“Any coach will tell you that you can have 11 guys on the field who are players, but what happens when one goes down?” McDaniel said. “You’ve got to be two-deep just to be able to compete.”
Offensive line performance
The Little Giants have their mainstays on the line back in guards Simmons and Everidge, an all-City/County first-teamer last year. McDaniel said he’s got sophomore Drake Morrison at center, with Isaac Edwards and Kerry Showalter at the tackles.
After that, the depth issue rears its head again, but McDaniel says his players have done the work they’ve needed to do in the offseason to help keep the Little Giants on a winning track.
“Again, we need to have guys who are ready to step in for the starters,” McDaniel said.
Filling Brooks’ shoes
There weren’t many defensive players in the Valley who were as dominant as Tyshawn Brooks, a two-time All-Group 3A first-teamer. Brooks is now at Fairmont State University in West Virginia, which means there’s a huge hole in Waynesboro’s defense that needs filling.
“I lost probably one of the best linebackers I’ve ever coached in Tyshawn,” McDaniel said. “There’s no way you’re going to replace someone like Tyshawn Brooks. What it does mean is that the guys here now are going to have to step up and get the job done.”
Moore will see action at linebacker, as will sophomore Elijah Braxton, who played middle linebacker last year. Sophomore Jack Fridley will see time, as will Detajh Smith and Tyler Derozen.
There is good strength and experience in the secondary, starting with Williams and Clark, whom McDaniel said have lived in the weight room in the offseason.
“I think our defense could be pretty decent,” McDaniel said. “We just have to get the reps we need to get to where we’re reacting instead of thinking and then reacting.”
Special teams play
Last year was an up-and-down one for the Little Giants on special teams, especially on extra points.
“That was irritating,” McDaniel said of the inconsistency on extra points. “If you have a really good team and you’re outscoring everyone by two or three touchdowns, it’s not a big deal. But if you’re scoring only one or two touchdowns, it’s a factor.”
Now McDaniel has a new kicker/punter in Luke Wells, who has shown a strong leg in the preseason.
“He’s got a good attitude and he’s very coachable,” McDaniel said. “He’s hasn’t been under fire yet, so we’ll see where we’re going there.”
QB — DaJuan Moore
FB — D.J. Green
WB — DeQuiondre Clark
WB — Marendon Jones
SE — Jadaciss Williams
TE — Savion Jackson
C — Drake Morrison
RG — Daniel Everidge
RT — Isaac Edwards
LG — Jaylen Simmons
LT — Kerry Showalter
K/P — Luke Wells
DL — Corbin Aleshire, Jaylen Simmons, Daniel Everidge
DE/OLB — Marendon Jones, D.J. Green, Kerry Showalter
ILB — DaJuan Moore, Elijah Braxton, Savion Jackson, Jack Fridley, Detajh Smith, Tyler Derozen
S — Jadaciss Williams, Kazmon Johnson, Quinny Chambers
CB — DeQuiondre Clark, Blake Awkward, Phillip Monterozo, Tybois Turner
Aug. 26 vs. Wilson Memorial, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 at Staunton River, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Stuarts Draft, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Riverheads, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Spotswood, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 at Harrisonburg, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Robert E. Lee, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Turner Ashby, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 vs. Broadway, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 vs. Fort Defiance, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 OPEN