IF EAST Jackson’s spread attack is move up and down the field with efficiency this year, it will have to do so with some first-year starters.
Gone is tailback C.J. Allen, who rambled for 1,008 yards last season, and Tyler Collins, who ran for 589 yards last year as the Eagle quarterback. Click here for practice photos.
“We lost the kids that moved the ball for us last year,” East Jackson coach Brian Smith said.
In fact, the backfield duo accounted for 81 percent of East Jackson’s total offense last year.
“An 1,000-yard rusher is always hard to replace,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter if you were 10-0 or 0-10, it’s still a big chunk of your offense and for us it was.”
The Eagles have spent preseason camp looking for someone to emerge at tailback and for a new starting quarterback.
To replace Allen, East Jackson will turn to three running backs — senior Davante Gresham and juniors T.J. Clay and Tyree Rakestraw — who have very few varsity carries combined between them.
Since Gresham will be counted on heavily to play linebacker, the hope is that either Clay or Rakestraw can win that starting job to allow Gresham to concentrate on defense.
“Our kids, they understand what we’re trying to accomplish here and are working hard to help us with that,” Smith said. “Hopefully, one of them will step up and take the job.”
Naturally, Eagle coaches are interested in how the junior backs, Clay and Rakestraw, respond in Thursday’s home scrimmage against Monticello.
“Practice is one thing and the game is something else,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, the competition for the starting quarterback job remains a three-man race between Austin Beauchamp, Caleb Hill and Brodhi Strong. Beauchamp and Hill are both juniors, while Strong is a sophomore. Hill, however, has been limited in practice recently due to an elbow injury.
Smith said each brings something different to the table.
Beauchamp at 215-lbs. is the biggest player of the three and has the strongest arm. Smith describes him as a “pounder.”
Smith said Hill seems to have the best grasp of the offense thus far, having served as junior varsity quarterback last year.
Strong has a good arm, Smith said, but is still relatively new to the system, having transferred from Commerce.
“They’re all different,” Smith said. “They’ve all got little things about them that they can do differently.”
In the meantime, preparations continue for East Jackson’s Aug. 31 opener with Banks County. Smith said the team is looking forward to Thursday’s dress rehearsal with Monticello.
“Our main goal this week is to get ready to play Monticello Thursday night here and go out under the lights and watch the film and re-adjust,” Smith said.
East Jackson quarterback Austin Beauchamp (right) fakes a handoff to Eagle running back T.J. Clay (left).
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