When Summit opened the season 0-3 in 2013, it looked like a rebuilding year. The Jaguars had only about a dozen returning lettermen and were forced to thrust a lot of youth and inexperience into the Friday night fire. A year later, after a 6-6 campaign and a playoff victory, much of that youth has experience and growth to draw upon, giving head coach Travis Pride reason for optimism as camp begins this week.
“For what that team had coming back, we were super excited about their accomplishments. If they didn’t overachieve a little bit, I think we at least got maximum effort, maximum potential, maximum ability out of them,” he said.
As it pertains to 2014, the most important thing to come from last season was all the experience players were able to get – and none more critically than junior quarterback Braden Nolen, who threw for more than 2,300 yards and 21 TDs last season as a sophomore.
“I think he’s going to be really, really good,” Pride said. “He’s got all the intangibles and he’s a really good kid. He’s a great leader and extremely smart. He’s very unselfish and just has all the intangibles that you want them all to have. You can tie that into the fact that he’s a very gifted athlete.”
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Nolen will have a deep group of targets with several key receivers returning. The trio of Kendrick Welsh, Lane Schwab and Burrell Taylor had eight touchdown catches between them a year ago.
The backfield is one area that doesn’t boast significant experience. The two-deep at running back features Dujuan Webb, who saw only a handful of carries last season, and sophomore Derek Johnson, who spent last year on the freshman squad. Both will have to quickly adjust to the speed of varsity action to be successful, but Pride thinks the combination of Webb’s size and power with Johnson’s speed and agility will provide a solid tandem.
Opening holes for the backs and protecting Nolen will be an offensive line that features three returning starters. A few new faces are expected to step in and quickly get up to speed – and speed might be this unit’s upside.
“They’re not real big but they’re athletic and play hard for us,” Pride said. “I feel like they’ve all got pretty good mobility. It might be a bit of a work in progress, but I think that group is going to end up being pretty good before it’s said and done.”
On the other side of the line, Pride feels good about the middle with juniors Miles Adams and Dylan Briscoe. Depth might be a concern though, as both of those guys also see time on offense.
Turnover at linebacker means fresh blood there, but Wictor Dos Anjos had 76 tackles a year ago and is a solid foundation from which to build.
The secondary is keyed by senior safety Eric Jones, who will be a three-year starter for the Jags. Wide receivers Isaiah Barnett and Welsh will also moonlight at cornerback.
“I think we feel real good about the 1’s we have across the board, but we’ve got to continue to develop and bring along some depth. I think that’s probably the situation for a lot of coaches across the state,” Pride said.
The depth will be tested in a district (14-5A) that features several traditionally strong teams, and this season adds crosstown rivals Timberview.
“We’re going to have a handful of pretty good football teams in our district. We might be a much better football team than we were last year and still go 5-5,” Pride said. “We’ve got our hands full with Timberview, Lancaster, Waxahachie. I think we’re in a super competitive district, but I do really like this football team. Not only do I think some of the kids are real talented, but have just as great character.”