By David Knox, Sports Editor
CLAY – The post-Piggy-T era begins and it starts with a visit from the Florence Falcons.
Willie Miller gets his shot at quarterback, and the sophomore brings a lot of promise. But 18 starters are gone, including wide receiver T.J . Simmons and others now playing on Saturdays.
He does have talent around him. Nico Collins, the top receiver in the state, will give Miller a threat deep and over the middle, and super-swift Rod McCloud will be a deep threat as well. Running backs Quentin Young and Tony Gurley are weapons running and catching the ball.
Defensively, Keilend Clayton anchors a solid line, and the defense overall is fast and should be better than last year’s.
Florence is coming off a 4-6 year, a disappointment after an 11-win season in 2014. The Cougars eliminated Florence that year in the state semifinals The Falcons should be reloaded by now, with quarterback Monte Turner, who tossed for more than 1,000 yards with six TDs last year, running backs Cameron Davis and Quess Carroll and wide receivers Jakob Byrd and Johnathan Coffee returning. Eight starters are back on offense.
Coach J.B. Wallace, entering his third season, said the Falcons want to establish the running game first. He believes his offensive line should be more athletic. There are some losses on both the defensive and offensive lines, but overall this is an experienced team.
Free safety J’Marick Woods (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) is a Michigan commitment, and he leads what could be a very strong multiple 3-4 defense with six starters back. Senior nose guard Jabauri Garner (6-3, 300) anchors the front.
“I expect a little more experience and to play with a little more poise,” Wallace said. “Those guys battled hard last year, but for a lot of them it was the first time in the line of fire in a varsity ballgame. We got better as the weeks went on and we improved and just fine-tuned everything this summer.”
This should be a very tough test for the Cougars. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Friday at Cougar Stadium.