With each new season, high school football teams face holes to fill — positions vacated by graduation. Some of those voids are harder to replace than others. Here are five critical positions Mansfield teams will have to fill this fall.
Mansfield – running back
This one should be obvious. With Kennedy Brooks off to Oklahoma, the Tigers have a huge void in the backfield. How big? Consider over the past two seasons that Brooks totaled 710 carries for more than 6,400 yards and 82 touchdowns. That’s typically not something you replace with a simple “next man up” formula.
A workhorse back like Brooks is hard to come by, so don’t expect Mansfield to feature one guy getting 30-plus carries per game. Multiple backs will be used this season, possibly including Euless Trinity transfer defensive back Cam’ron Jones. Unless someone breaks out like Brooks did his sophomore season, this position will likely be a platoon situation. Benefiting the backs, though, is depth and experience returning on the offensive line.
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Legacy – quarterback
It’s usually not a simple transition after watching a three-year starter graduate. That’s where the Broncos find themselves this season. Kendall Catalon was an unquestioned leader for this team and he’ll be missed on and off the field. Over the last two seasons Catalon threw for over 3,000 yards and 54 touchdowns, adding another 2,000 yards on the ground for another 20 scores.
The Broncos were left without a QB heir apparent. Three players were competing for the job in the spring and it’s likely the battle will extend to the first game, if not beyond. Standout defensive back, and Kendall’s younger brother, Jalen, could also see time under center. He’s a dynamic athlete and possibly the best quarterback on the roster, but makes such an impact on the defensive side of the ball it would be hard to ask him to do both full-time.
Lake Ridge – offensive line
The Eagles are fortunate to have an experienced quarterback returning, and are excited about the prospects of Cartraven Walker in the backfield. More concerning to head coach Kirk Thor is the progress of the offensive line.
“We have a lot of experience at the skill positions,” Thor pointed out, “But not as much on the line.”
Blake Lodes and Will Ready are back, but Lake Ridge will need some guys to fill the gaps around them. The Eagles’ high-octane offense was fairly balanced last year, rushing for 2885 yards while throwing for 3353 — and all that starts with a solid unit up front.
Timberview – quarterback
The Wolves haven’t had long-term stability at the position since Devin Williams left following the 2015 season. Zeke Kuyawa took the majority of snaps last year as a senior, and led the team in rushing while doing so. Jyron Russell saw time at quarterback as well and returns now for his senior season. Entering the picture is sophomore Jaden Hullaby.
With athletes like Jalen Knox and Stacy Sneed, the Wolves don’t necessarily need a dominant quarterback to be successful. Coach James Brown will look for consistency and smart football from his signal caller, and if that person can also make special plays, the offense might more resemble the 2014 offense that racked up more than 5,300 total yards en route to a 10-2 season.
Summit – fullback/tight end
Head coach Channon Hall said the fullback/tight end would be the most “intriguing” position his staff had to fill this fall. The Jags graduated their top three running backs (by yards gained) from last season, though junior quarterback Brysen McKinney (983 yards passing, 412 rushing) does return.
Hall said he wants his offense to run the ball, and most good running games have the luxury of a fullback paving the way. The position requires the athletic ability to move out and factor into the passing game as well. Versatility to create mismatches is a key.