JONESBOROUGH — The signs on the David Crockett fieldhouse and up the road at the old Five Points Grocery proclaim a new era in Pioneer football.
First-year head coach Jeremy Bosken explained it’s not just a change at the top, but a change resulting from the influx of a bunch of new players.
“We have freshmen coming in, competing every practice,” he said. “It’s been a big influence at camp. Our seniors talked about how the freshmen have been going after it in practice have been an influence on them. Bringing the freshmen in and embracing them has been good from the bottom to the top.”
The Pioneers had an impressive 76 players on their roster as of media day, when they sported new uniforms. The seniors were dressed in white with the underclassmen in gold. There was no talk of last season’s 1-9 record; the focus was clearly on one game at a time.
Crockett opens the season Aug. 22 against Sullivan East.
Ryan Burger, thrown into the fire as a freshman last season, is back as the starting quarterback. He’s added size and is now a 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore.
The backfield has the running back duo known as “Thunder and Lightning” with senior Dalton Brown (5-10, 175) and freshman T.K. Hill (5-8, 170). The Pioneers also have short-yardage and red-zone packages set for junior Chevy Miller (6-2, 200) and senior Shawn Parker (5-10, 170).
In a different offense than recent years, senior Luke Hopson is the X-receiver, senior Troy White is the H-back, sophomore Eric Day is the Z-receiver and senior Cody Chambers is the Y-receiver.
Bosken praised the group for their hard work, adding the receivers have often been the first players to show up for practice.
On the line, senior Justin Morrow (6-0, 185) is at center. A trio — senior Tyler Carver (6-4, 260), Tyler Brown (5-11, 190) and Cory Vaughn (6-0, 210) — has seen time at left guard. Sophomore Brandon Raines is lined up at left tackle. The right side has seniors Andrew Kyker (6-0, 230) at guard and Tomas Ojeda (5-10, 200) at tackle.
Moving to the defensive side, seniors Colt Jenkins (6-3, 215) and Evan Rolla (5-9, 200) are on the line along with sophomores Toby Rupert (6-3, 190) and Preston Tilson (5-10, 190).
Parker is an aggressive middle linebacker. Outside linebackers include Jake Wells (5-10, 155), junior Jeremiah Leonard (5-10, 165) and Miller.
The secondary has seniors Tanner Honeycutt (5-7, 148) and Ty Butler (5-10, 155) on the corners. Sophomore Michael Moffitt (5-7, 150) is at strong safety and junior Ryan Phillips (5-11, 140) lines up at free safety.
Special teams see sophomore T.J. Martin kicking and senior Hayden Thompson punting. Hill, Butler and Honeycutt are looked at as key return men.
Bosken added the starting lineup isn’t set in stone, saying people are “fired” from their starting jobs every day. While not particularly big this season, the Pioneers feel they are as well conditioned as any team around.
“That’s something we take pride in,” Bosken said. “We may not be the strongest or the fastest, but the one thing we can control is how good shape we’re in. We’ve been conditioning since January. When we came back from the dead period, we had our conditioning tests and since then we haven’t let up. We end every practice with the conditioning on top of the tempo we go at.”