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Ryans, Highland Cavs look forward to better year in 2014

George Thwaites • Aug 14, 2014 at 11:41 PM

WISE — Ty Ryans' freshman season as a quarterback at Virginia-Wise was also the Highland Cavaliers' first foray into the the NCAA Division II Mountain East Conference.

It was no walk in the park, to put it mildly.

Virginia-Wise struggled to a 2-9 finish. Along the way, Ryans unleashed nine of the Highland Cavs' 31 team interceptions before a foot injury confined his playing time to six games.

The hard knocks are an accepted part of the former Cherokee High School standout's college curriculum as he heads into the 2014 season.

"Last season I got hurt, so it wasn't what I wanted. But we ended on a good note, so I feel positive coming into this season," said Ryans, who passed for 777 yards and four touchdowns.

Ryans should know not to beat himself up too much over the picks. Last year interceptions were as endemic as a stomach bug running through a locker room. Starter Cullen LaVoi, who has since graduated, gave up 13. Jeremy Eubank, who'll be once again vying with Ryans for snaps, allowed eight interceptions.

The difficult transition to the Mountain East was a collective ordeal that Ryans not only believes has motivated the quarterbacks as a group. It has tempered the team as a whole.

"It's a whole different level. There are bigger, stronger guys and the game is very fast-paced," Ryans said. "I think last year we got all our jitters out of the way. Now I think we're all confident and ready to go."

Ryans initially injured his right foot in Virginia-Wise's 38-15 loss to Charleston in the third game of the season. He worked himself back into playing time until he injured the same foot again in a 42-17 loss to Shepherd.

Headed into the 2014 campaign, Ryans said he's 100 percent and ready to roll.

Highland Cavaliers coach Dewey Lusk said he can detect a difference in both of his returning front-runners for the starting quarterback spot.

"Ty Ryans has a lot of tools. He can run, he can throw. Jeremy Eubank has got a very good arm. And you can tell as compared to this time last year, they're a little bit more mature. They're a little bit more poised," said Lusk, who'll begin his fourth season at Virginia-Wise.

"They understand more what's going on with the offense. I'm anxious to get them out here and let us play a little bit and see what they're capable of doing," he said.

The Highland Cavs also welcome true freshman Max Rodgers, who was a standout quarterback at New River Valley powerhouse Grayson County last season.

"After one practice, Max's head is spinning right now," Lusk said. "He's a tall kid with a very good arm. He's very capable, but he s trying to learn which way to go and where to read and 'What am I looking at?' So it's tough to tell right now."

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