VIDEO: Aaron Hutsell Interview
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – This is the seventh part in an eight-part series chronicling each of Carson-Newman football's positions for 2018. This preview highlights the only defensive position to lose a starter from 2017 – the linebackers – with assistance from Aaron Hutsell.
Carson-Newman bids farethewell to Sha'Heem Stupart who had one of the greatest careers for a Carson-Newman linebacker in program history. The native of the Palmetto State finished his C-N career with 312 career tackles, the seventh most all-time in Carson-Newman history. He also racked up 24 stops behind the line and 6.5 sacks in his C-N career.
Hutsell indicated the Eagles will look to replace Stupart, the Eagles' leading tackler from a year ago, by committee. The have a strong start to doing that with two returning all-conference players in Antonio Henderson (Palmetto, Fla.) and Temoris Coats (Greenwood, S.C.)
As a red-shirt sophomore, Henderson started all 11 games for the Eagles and was second on the team in tackles with 66. He led Carson-Newman with 10 stops behind the line of scrimmage and was second on the team with 3.5 sacks.
He also broke up six passes, the most on the team of any non-defensive back, had four quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. Henderson's top effort came against Saint Augustine's with an 11-tackle day. He registered a whopping seven solo tackles on homecoming against North Greenville.
"He hit the weight room hard and had a great spring," Hutsell said. "One of the knocks on him last year was that he played a lot of reps and wasn't in the best condition. He's gotten himself in much better condition and is ready to play a lot of reps. We need him. We need him to step up and have the production that he did last year."
Coats came on in the back half of the season with a trio of games with at least eight tackles. His coming out party was against Limestone when he registered eight stops. He backed that up with an eight-tackle performance against North Greenville followed by a season-high nine tackles against Lenoir-Rhyne.
"He's a tremendous leader," Hutsell said. "He's fundamentally very sound and needs to keep doing what he's been doing. He studies and prepares well, then you see that pay off in how hard he practices and plays."
Coats was penciled in on the Eagles' media day depth chart to take over Stupart's roll at Mike linebacker, shifting over from the Will.
However, it was Zackury Fuller (Jesup, Ga.) who has inserted himself into a load of first team reps at the Will.
"Zack has picked things up pretty quickly as a freshman," Hutsell said. "We have a pretty complex defense and he's picked it up fairly effortlessly. There's still some stuff for him to work on, but he's well-prepared. He's done a great job stepping in. You don't see that from a freshman. He's not a normal guy."
Fuller makes his way to Carson-Newman after playing for Ken Cribb at Wayne County High School. He helped the Yellow Jackets to a region title, winning the team's Mr. Defense accolade in the process. He led the team in tackles for loss and forced fumbles. He was the Wayne County Region Defensive Player of the Year.
"Jimmy is 6-2 and 230 pounds," Hutsell said. "He added 20 pounds over the summer, which is good. He's a raw player, but he can run to the ball well and he's long. He'll be a very good player; things are moving fast for him. Every day is a growth process for him, because he has the intangible part of it."
During his senior year at Evangelical Christian School, Mera tallied 140 tackles and five sacks. He also split time at receiver, catching 900 yards worth of passes and nine touchdowns. He ranked in the top 20 for the state of Florida for tackles as a senior.
Houston joins former Palmetto High School star and current All-SAC defensive lineman Brian Bembry on the Eagles' roster. He racked up 358 tackles, 98 stops behind the line of scrimmage and 16 sacks in three seasons playing for Dave Marino. He led the team in tackles two of his final three seasons. He also picked off four passes. He was his area's defensive player of the year.
"I like Alonzo a lot," Hutsell said. "He's a little short, but he's explosive with heavy hands. He'll make an impact on special teams, and he very well may crack the lineup."
Carson-Newman football's position previews wrap up Friday with special teams.