Nickname: Blue Devils
Coach: Nick Colobro
2006 record: 4-6, 3-4
Offensive starters back: 7
Defensive starters back: 8
GATE CITY — Tihlee Anderson ended several months’ worth of speculation when he showed up for the first week of football practice at Gate City.
So is he ready to take the snaps for the Blue Devils again this season?
“Don’t bet the house on it,” said Gate City coach Nick Colobro.
The 5-foot-8, 152-pound Anderson got knocked around quite a bit late last season, with the dings including a mild concussion and a shoulder injury.
Following Anderson’s impressive performance at the Group A state basketball tournament, some doubts were raised as to whether he’d place his basketball prospects at risk by returning to the gridirion.
“I was just a little worried about my shoulder from my injury last year. My grandparents and my dad and mom talked to me and wanted me to come back out, so I came back out,” said Anderson, who could show up as a running back, wide receiver or — who knows? — quarterback.
“I just hope to help out the team. It doesn’t matter what spot I’m in.”
For Nick Colobro, trying Anderson in offensive roles other than quarterback makes a lot of sense. The kid has skills that can help the squad in any number of ways. Besides, the worst Gate City football season since 1998 — and one of the three worst since 1961 — doesn’t afford any returning starters job security.
At least not necessarily at the same positions.
That includes returning running back Tyler Parks, whose 2006 season was cut short by a leg injury at Clintwood. Parks had a 1,500 yard rushing season as a sophomore and was up to 800 last year before the injury. He’s an obvious candidate to return at running back, but he’s also been involved in preseason tryouts for the QB job.
“We’re looking at some new looks and experimenting right now, trying to see how things go,” Parks said. “My senior year, I definitely want to go out feeling good. Last year was a disappointment to the team, to the community. It was just a bad year. Us seniors don’t want it to happen again.”
Jon Kern, a 5-11, 189 junior, may be the likeliest candidate to end up under center for the Blue Devils this year. Peyton Jenkins, Jarrod Sanders, Logan Byrd and Trey Clark are being tried in various backfield roles. Jason Broadwater returns at split end. Dustin Olson is also a potential wideout, as are several of the previously mentioned players in the backfield mix.
Positions in the offensive line are also up for grabs. Returning starters Seth Musick and Quinton Jones are likely to show up in the interior, with Shawn Hutchins a candidate at tight end. Otherwise, Brad Brown, Ty Frazier, Ryan Pope, A.J. Johnson, Terrence Harvey and Daniel Jonas are jostling one another for playing time.
On defense, Tyler Tiller and Jones return at the ends, with Jon Pope returning at tackle. Jason Begley, Cameron Browder, Parks and Jenkins return at linebacker. But the defensive line could also get a boost from Josh Powers, Owen Franklin, Terrance Harvey, Ajay Johnson, Aaron Stokes or Frazier.
Dustin Jones, Dustin Clark, Seth Clark, Trey Clark, Logan Russell, Derek Starnes and Hutchins are all candidates to fill out the defensive backfield.
Jones will reprise his role as punter while Ked Byrd returns as placekicker and kickoff man. His brother, Logan Byrd, will be the backup.