VIDEO: North Greenville Highlights
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. - This is the eighth part in an 11-part series breaking down all of Carson-Newman football's opponents for the 2017 season. This feature analyzes the Eagles' homecoming foe, North Greenville.
The Crusaders come into 2017 fresh off a 9-5 year, a spot in the NCAA playoffs and a quarterfinal appearance before eventually bowing out to playoff runner-up North Alabama.
The Crusaders, ranked 16th in Lindy's preseason rankings, could easily pull off an encore performance to 2017 with one of the region's most talented offenses. North Greenville returns 10 starters from last year's offense.
The Crusaders are set at the signal caller spot as Will Hunter returns for his second season under center. Hunter threw for over 3,000 yards in 2016 with 23-touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had just four INT's heading into the final game against North Alabama.
First-year offensive line coach Will Shuler has plenty to work with this season as his group returns four of its five 2016 starters. The hogs are led by senior center Casey Stewart and Micheal Thomas, which helped lead an offense that has produced back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers.
NGU's front five also returns its starting left tackle, Caleb Harris who was one of two All-Americans last season for the Crusaders and the only All-American on offense.
North Greenville's offense totaled 5,682 yards last season with over 2,000 of that coming on the ground. The three-headed monster responsible for the ground production returns, led by Tracy Scott who posted 1,190 yards and 15-touchdowns on the ground. Scott was also a home run hitter, with several touchdowns over 40-yards including a long of 65.
Depth at the tailback spot is not an issue as former 1,000-yard rusher Ashton Heard returns for his senior campaign while bruiser Tristan Jackson adds a power element to the NGU ground game.
Hunter will have plenty of options to throw to, too. Hunter returns four receivers with more than 400-yards including Javon Smith, who led the team with 776 yards and nine touchdowns. Mason Sanders also returns for his final year in Tigerville, while the return Robbie Brown, the Victory Bowl MVP from 2014 adds more depth to an already dangerous receiving corps.
At tight end, Bobby Foos is back with Devon Turman and Jordan Helms adding quality depth to the position.
While the offense is unquestionably loaded, the defense has some holes to fill, with five starters back from last year's team. The Crusaders must deal with the loss of linebacker Sam Houston, who ranked among the top tacklers in NCAA Division II the last two seasons.
Brandon Burger, Jeremy Hunt, and Jeremiah Ferguson will be tasked with filling the void left by the departure of middle linebacker Sam Houston, who returns this season as a graduate assistant.
The Better Know the Opponent Series continues August 18 with Tusculum.