There is no hiding the fact that Lenoir City's football team
lost a deep and valuable senior class.
Head coach Mike Zeller is embracing change and
challenging his players to step up if they want to fill one of the openings left
"We're looking for guys, obviously, to step up and fill some holes," Zeller said. "I
told our kids, 'All our positions are open. Some of you have been waiting a long time, and here's
Performance on the field is one thing, but Zeller said right now it is not the
biggest focus when replacing the senior class.
"The biggest thing is leadership," he said.
"We've got to start with that. We lost a large senior class that had a lot of leaders on there.
We're looking for that."
Position-wise, the Panthers are looking for linemen. Rising
sophomore Bradley Willis, who started at guard for the Panthers his freshman season, is expected to
be an anchor up front. Beyond that, things are pretty open.
"(Logan) Miller, who started one
game for us last year, he's looking good right now," Zeller said. "(Danny) Eichelberger is another
The Panthers had nine seniors listed as offensive and defensive linemen. They also lose
their two middle linebackers, Jordan Willis and Dylan Sanders.
"Eric Lawson and Matt Scott,
hopefully those guys are ready to step in," Zeller said. "Those guys have looked real good, and
we're really counting on them to hold down those two middle linebacker positions."
huge question mark is at the quarterback position where several players are competing for a starting
role. Both the starter, Jordan Hall, and backup, Chris Roe, from last year's team were
One of those competing for the position is rising junior Rashawn Tallent. Whether
Tallent earns the quarterback job or ends up playing in the defensive backfield, Zeller said he
expects the athlete to be a big contributor for the team.
All-state tight end Lucas Hamilton
will leave a hole in the passing game, having been one of the team's go-to receiving weapons. One
area where the team is solid should be with their running backs, according to the coaching staff.
Both Jaylond Woods and Caleb Wilson will return for the Panthers.
Wilson led the team with
679 yards rushing on 7.72 yards per carry, while Woods averaged 7.24 yards for 398 yards. Woods was
also one of the team's more prolific receivers last season.
So far, the coaching staff is
happy with what they've seen from practice.
"This team has a good work ethic," Zeller said.
"They want to be out here, and they want to get better. The biggest thing we need to work on is just
getting them reps. We've got a lot of green guys, a lot of guys who don't have experience. Reps is
going to be the biggest thing."
The real evaluation of where the team is at will come at 5:30
p.m. Tuesday when they travel to Alcoa to scrimmage.
"We know they're a solid program, and
they're going to be fighting for state every year," Zeller said. "It's a good measuring stick for us
just to see where we're at. Hopefully, we can play a lot of guys so we can make some evaluations on
them. It's fun. The kids like it. It will be good for us to see where we're at right now, especially
with all these new faces."