June 14, 2009
MACON -- M.C. Miller''s cupboard at Noxubee County High School has plenty left in stock.
The veteran football coach will have to find a way to replace 12 starters (five on offense, seven on defense) from last season''s Class 4A state championship team.
And while the losses of All-State wide receiver Patrick Patterson, wide receiver Teddy Young, and quarterback Termarcus Conner will be some of the toughest to fill, don''t think for a minute that the Tigers won''t throw the ball a lot in 2009.
Noxubee County showed Saturday it will be a contender to win another title when it defeated Mitchell (Tenn.) to win the Ole Miss 7-on-7 Passing Camp for the second consecutive year.
"The kids are improving a lot and are working hard at it trying to get back to where we need to be," Miller said. "We''re trying to push them to get back to where they were. We know we have a lot of young kids we''re going to have to depend, so we''re going to have to be patient, but we''re pushing them."
Miller admitted he was surprised the Tigers won the Ole Miss camp again. With only a handful of experienced skill players returning -- including rising senior wide receiver/free safety Vincent Sanders -- Miller wasn''t sure how the younger players would react.
Miller knows the atmosphere and the pressures of a 7-on-7 league are much different than what the Tigers will face this season, but the performance of many of the inexperienced players pleased him.
"(Rising sophomore quarterback) Jared Johnson is stepping up and looking better and better," Miller said. "The 7-on-7 is helping him. We''re going to throw the ball this summer and try to get him ready. We have a running game and we need a passing game, too, so we can get that balance."
Miller said Johnson took the majority of the snaps at quarterback. He said Sanders can take over at quarterback in a pinch, but he said he would prefer to keep Sanders at wide receiver.
Rising senior Earnest Harmon figures to be the Tigers'' tailback. Rising senior Patreon Hopkins also could see time at wide receiver and at running back to help the Tigers take advantage of an offensive line that figures to return three starters from last season.
Miller said rising seniors Tony Glenn and Lakendrick Brown, rising sophomore Terrance Barron, and junior Demarcus Mallard, a newcomer to the squad, also played key roles.
On defense, Miller said he hopes to have players go only one way. Sanders and Hopkins went both ways at the passing camp.
Miller said rising seniors Jontae Skinner and Fredeas Tate and rising juniors Corey Williams, Todderick Tate, and Brandon Skinner played key roles on the defense.
"We didn''t know if we would win it, but every time we take the field we think we can win," Miller said. "The guys get that much more confidence as they go, so we''re just working on that and trying to build them up."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.