“The kids are real hungry to show that last year wasn’t a fluke,” said football coach Willie Cannon, who is entering his fifth season as head coach. “They want to build off that and try to make it an every year thing now. They are real excited.”
The Panthers have a real opportunity to do such not only because they have six players returning on each side of the ball but also because of who they have coming back. Leading rusher Keion Davis, who ran for 1,068 yards and 12 touchdowns on 5.42 yards a carry, is returning for his senior season.
“This year he is the primary running back,” Cannon said. “He got better as the year went on, even though that was his first year starting at tailback. We’re looking for bigger and better things this year as he is getting more comfortable at the position.”
Also returning is junior defensive end DeAndre Walker, who had 114 tackles and 18.5 sacks last season, senior linebacker Khalil Gray, who had just as many tackles as Walker, and junior linebacker Montavious Atkinson (138 tackles).
“DeAndre will have to expect more double teams,” Cannon said. “Teams are really going to focus on making sure they know where he is. His stats may not add up the way they did last year but he’s going to have to continue to play within the team concept.”
The Panthers’ defense will continue to attack from the 4-3 formation and take as much pressure as possible off its young secondary.
“The strength of our defense should be our front seven,” Cannon said. “Those guys are all returning except for one.”
As far as the offense, positive results are expected to come through the play of Davis along with wide receiver Bingo Morton and quarterbacks Kinan Humphrey and Kenny Moxey, who combined for 12 passing TDs last year.
“Offensively, our experience lies within our skilled positions because those are the kids who are returning,” Cannon said.