Carson-Newman Football Position Previews: The Quarterbacks

VIDEO: Kevin McKeethan Interview

JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the third part in an eight-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's positions for 2018.  This feature is highlights the Eagles' gunslingers and position coach Kevin McKeethan. 

Here's what you need to know about the Eagles' QBs. McKeethan thinks the Eagles can when a bunch of games with their top three options at quarterback. 

Derrick Evans (Macon, Ga.), Tyler Thackerson (Clinton, Tenn.) and Tyson Herron (Bogart, Ga.) have all spent at least three years with the program. 

"I could not ask for a better situation," McKeethan said. "Derrick has a lot of snaps under his belt.  Tyson and Tyler both have been effective in their roles.  They all have to prepare as if they are the starting quarterback.  All three of them bring different skillsets to the table.  All three of them could win us a conference championship."

Evans is the most star-studded of the trio, earning preseason first team All-SAC honors and an 8-3 record as the Eagles' starter in 2017. Evans turned in a stellar season in his first campaign as Carson-Newman's starting quarterback.  Evans led the South Atlantic Conference in rushing touchdowns with 18.  He also rushed for 625 yards on 149 carries, including back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances to close out the year.  He topped out at 126 yards on the ground in the Eagles' regular season finale against UNC Pembroke.  

His 18 rushing touchdowns are the seventh most for a single season in Carson-Newman history and the second most among quarterbacks at Carson-Newman.  Aerially, Evans completed 78-of-137 passes for 1,460 yards and eight scores.   He ranked fifth in the nation in yards per completion and 14th in the country in passing efficiency.  With a completion percentage rate of 56.9 percent, he has the third-most efficient season in Carson-Newman football history passing the pigskin. 

His five rushing touchdown day against Lenoir-Rhyne registered as a school-record tying performance, matching Kenneth Tyson (1987 v. Elon) and Buck Wakefield (2009 v. Tusculum) for the most rushing touchdowns in one day.  He also has the two longest runs by a Carson-Newman quarterback for the last decade, wheeling off a 79-yard tote against UNC Pembroke and a 76-yarder against Lenoir-Rhyne.

Of the three, Evans is the most run-pass balanced. 

Thackerson was efficient and effective when he took the field in his redshirt-freshman season. He is arguably the best pure passer of the group.  Thackerson found Quinton Phillips in the end zone for a 12-yard score against Pikeville.  He also carved up the ground for chunk yardage, averaging 7.2 yards a rush.

Meanwhile, Herron has starting experience, logging a start his redshirt-freshman year at Brevard.  Herron has more than 150 career rushing yards and a 100-yard passing game to his name.  He scored his second career rushing touchdown last season in the Eagles' regular season finale against UNC Pembroke. 

Of the trio, Herron has a virtuoso understanding of the Eagles' veer-option attack. 

"The best cure for any type of complacency is competition," McKeethan said. "Derrick knows how talented Tyler and how effective Tyson is at effective at running the offense.  They really feed off of each other very well.  It's a very healthy relationship and healthy competition."

Carson-Newman adds in three freshman quarterbacks to the mix in Mason Chu (Jamestown, N.C.), Dalton Mullins (Wise, Va.) and Justin Howard (Kodak, Tenn.).

"We expect them to come in to operate at a high level, just like we do the veteran guys," McKeethan said. "Those guys come in, and their heads spin a little.  That's ok.  Just like it's great for me, they could not ask for a better group of veterans to learn from, not just the way to play quarterback in this offense, but to also live the Eagle way."

Chu played high school football for Eric Rainey at Southwest Guilford High School.  He also played baseball.

Mullins was a three-sport athlete at Central, playing basketball and running track. He recorded 2,908 rushing yards with 2,707 yards through the air. He was the 2017 Wendy's High School Heisman for the state of Virginia. He was a Mountain 7 All-Conference player while also receiving accolades as a member of the All-Region 2A West team and VHSL All-State team.

Howard finished his Northview Academy career as a three-year starter under center. He threw for 7,189 yards in his career with 88 touchdowns against 18 interceptions.  He rushed for another 2,639 yards and 45 touchdowns.  He helped Northview to a pair of playoff appearances.  He was a two-time all-region selection and the starting quarterback for Tennessee in the Tennessee-Kentucky All-Star Border Bowl.  

Carson-Newman's position previews continue Thursday with the Eagles' special teams.

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