CASTLEWOOD — On the cusp of starting practice for the 2013 football season, one of Castlewood’s most pressing concerns was learning to live without Reid Edmonds, who wrapped up his senior season as the Blue Devils’ leading rusher and receiver.
Over night, that gave way to a whole three-ring binder full of pressing concerns.
On the day before practice officially started throughout Southwest Virginia, nine-year coach David Scammell was transferred out of his post. Longtime Lebanon defensive coordinator Darrell Taylor — who had expected to spend another season with the Pioneers — was suddenly in charge of a program of his own.
Scammell has since popped up as an assistant coach under Greg Mance at Richlands. He’ll probably have some fun this year regardless.
And eventually it will be fun for Taylor.
“This thing happened real late,” said Taylor, who was coach John Adams’ right-hand man at Lebanon for more than a decade. “I was excited to have the opportunity.”
Castlewood didn’t open camp until Aug. 5, but Taylor has had ample time to squeeze in the Blue Devils’ maximum 20 practices before opening kickoff. But that still hasn’t been much time for the coach and his players to adjust to each other, a new league — a new world, basically.
“We really weren’t expecting it, but we’re hoping everything will turn out good,” said Damien Patrick, a 5-foot-8, 160-pound junior running back who rushed for 260 yards and three scores last season.
“It’s going to be an opportunity for everybody, really.”
Senior running backs Dakota Johnson and Brett Steffey can expect some opportunities to carry the football also.
Taylor plans to keep the offense simple. He’ll use multiple sets, but the east-west template shouldn’t be entirely unfamiliar to his new charges.
“We wanted to go to as much of a quarterback-friendly offense as we could,” Taylor said. “It’s a position we may be searching for all the way up through the season.”
Juniors Brad Traverse (6-0, 170) and Dillon Hartley (5-8, 140) are likely to share time in the spot vacated by Dalton Gordon, who passed for 735 yards and six scores last season. Hartley put in the most offseason preparation for the position. Traverse has the edge in height and a stronger arm.
Returning wide receiver Jacob Cornett, a 6-3, 185-pound senior, must sit out the first two games of the season after getting ejected during last year’s season-ending playoff game with Haysi. The Blue Devils are eager to have his big mitts back in the lineup. Last year he had 13 catches for 200 yards, including four scoring receptions.
“We’ve got a good receiver in Cornett if we can get him the ball. He can do some things out there with a little bit of space,” Taylor said. “He’s definitely a good receiver going vertical down the field if we can just get the deep ball thrown.”
Sophomore Alex Woods (6-0, 180) and junior Spencer Elam (5-9, 220) could show up as tight ends.
Junior tackles Derek Lee (5-11, 270) and Jackson Case (6-1, 200) likely get the start up front, with sophomore Zach Austin (6-0, 220) leading the competition at center.
Seniors Evan Addington (5-9, 200) and Danny Cook (6-0, 240) and freshman Cody Amburgey (5-10, 210) are competing for time at guard. Sophomores Trevor Ingle (5-11, 295) and Cory Parsons (6-5, 290) could also factor in the O-line.
Defensively, Taylor has proven adept with both the 50s and 40s but has a preference for the five-man front.
Addington — who had 44 tackles, a fumble recovery, an interception and a sack last year — returns at one end. Senior Tyler Perrigan (5-11, 180) and Addington are two different looks at the other. Cook and Lee are good bets to line up inside. Ingle should rotate in and Amburgey is penciled in at nose guard.
Case, Collins, Steffey and Cornett look to prove themselves as linebackers. Jared Hall, Traverse, Johnson and Patrick give Taylor some solid athleticism in the secondary.
Johnson is the leading candidate at punter and placekicker, though Cornett has his chances to punt.