VIDEO: Kevin Day Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the first part in an eight-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's positions. Offensive line coach Kevin Day bats leadoff with his position group and the tight ends.
Day gets to work with a group that is loaded with talent and experience. The only loss from last year's 8-3 team.is Stokes Rowe. Everyone else returns. The Eagles can boast of seven different players who have starting experience in Jordan Seal (Morristown, Tenn.), Phillip McDowell (Boiling Springs, S.C.), Dillon Wilson (Bluffton, S.C.), Tavon Murray (Stockbridge, Ga.), Micah Pressley (Signal Mountain, Tenn.), Hayden Hester (Kingston, Tenn.) and Jacob Taylor (Oakwood, Ga.)
"The exciting thing is that we have some serious veterans coming back who have been playing since they were freshman," Day said. "This is their third year of playing in live situations. We have some great battles for some positions. The great thing is that there's only one guy in this group who graduates and doesn't have an option to come back. We have a lot of depth among guys who have done it before and been through the fire."
The guy with the bulk of the preseason accolades is McDowell. The 6-5, 315 tractor of a human being set a litany of O-line records for the Eagles in addition to a preseason All-American honor from Lindy's and first team all-conference honors from the SAC.
McDowell led Carson-Newman in knockdowns and overall grade in his sophomore season. McDowell produced a whopping 33 knockdowns on the year, good for the single-season C-N record, including the two highest single-game knockdown marks since the C-N Sports Information office began keeping track in 2012. McDowell had seven knockdowns in the Eagles' win against Limestone and six against Mars Hill in another C-N victory. He had at least one knockdown in every game for the Eagles.
"You look at Phil and nothing about him says that he should be a split-back veer or triple option offensive lineman," Day said. "He's 6-5 and 315 pounds. But he runs like a deer. He is an impressive physical specimen. In addition to learning about everything on the field, he has separated himself from his former self in a leadership role. He wasn't a very vocal guy when he came in, but now he's making a point to speak up and be a leader to get points across. His leadership ability is the biggest difference from when he first arrived to now."
McDowell just needs 12 more knockdowns to catch Robby Ignagni and his career record of 45 knockdowns, a ledger McDowell could easily reach in week three.
Joining McDowell up front are Seal, Wilson, Murray, Pressley, Hester and Taylor. Nick Parsons (Kissimmee, Fla.) adds significant experience to that group even though he has never started a game.
Seal is the most decorated player after McDowell, earning preseason first team All-SAC honors and a spot on the second team at the conclusion of last year. Seal finished the year second on Carson-Newman's team for overall grade and knockdowns with 15. He had the third highest single-game knockdown mark (since C-N's sports information office began keeping track in 2012) with four in the Eagles' victory over Catawba.
He helped pave the way for Carson-Newman's offense to rank second in the league with 409 yards per game gained, including a league-best 275 yards on the ground. The Eagles ranked in the top 10 nationally in yards rushing.
"The ultimate strength of this unit is a brotherhood that is very interesting," Day said. "They've done a good job to this point of being a tight unit. At the same time, they are embracing the fact that we can like each other and be brothers, but when we're on that football field, it's eat or be eaten. It's a seemingly perfect combination of love and respect with guys recognizing that either I have a job to win or a job to defend."
Even with eight firm individuals who could easily start for the Eagles, Day indicated that the Eagles are still building depth. Converted lineman Reece Fain could also enter the fray as a red-shirt junior.
"Reece Fain has been playing tackle," Day said. "He's been on the team and had a great spring. We're excited to see if that continues to develop to create more competition at those tackle spots. We also are interested to see what some freshmen can bring to the table."
Root blocked for the number one quarterback prospect in the country. He was a three-time all-county and all-region selection. He earned all-state honors as a senior. He helped the Hurricanes compile a 53-3 record in high school with four regional titles and back-to-back state championships as a junior and senior.
At Jeff Davis High School, Sheeler was named his team's most valuable lineman all four years of his high school career. He was twice named all-region and as a senior, earned all-state honors. He helped lead Jeff Davis to its first playoff berth in 17 years as a senior.
Finally, Gann was a two- time All-PrepXtra First teamer. He helped the Maryville Rebels to a pair of 6A state titles.
�� new hype video https://t.co/gDY8616dq1— C-N Football (@cnfootball) August 10, 2018
At tight end, the Eagles will once more likely turn to Trevor Makarov (Ann Arbor, Mich.). Makarov has started 17 straight games for the Eagles and gives C-N a pass-catching threat at the position. Makarov grabbed three passes for 77 yards a year ago, including a 51-yarder against Limestone. In comparison, a C-N tight end hadn't caught multiple passes in a season since Mo Whitten caught nine passes for 194 yards his senior year in 2008 en route to All-SAC honors.
"Nobody wants to upset Trevor," Day said. "He brings so many great leadership qualities and is such a great athlete. Jacob Reece got some playing time last year and is different look physically. Jacob looks like a tackle, but is quick as a hiccup and has great hands."
Christian Bass (Ludowici, Ga.) will also add depth at the position.
Carson-Newman's position previews continue Sunday with the defensive line.