Preview: Tift County Blue Devils

The start of 2006 looks promising for the Tift County Blue Devils as they return with an outstanding crop of seniors loaded with talent. Few questions remain for Coach Walls as the Devils head into the head coach's second year at Tift County. The heaviest thing on Tift fan's minds should be answered over the summer through multiple 7 on 7 passing challenges, who's the quarterback?

It's a question that will probably be answered by either rising senior Sean Baxley or upcoming junior Christian Glisson. Many followers of the 2005 season of Blue Devil football will likely remember Baxley taking at least a few snaps while now departed QB Scott Shuman was down. A game against Colquitt County gave the backup a chance to show his stuff; unfortunately it was far from memorable. The Packers defense tore through the line of scrimmage and gave Baxley no chance to make his mark on the Devil's season. Hopefully, Tift fans won't hold that against the kid; the Packers got after Shuman too, that's why he was out. Christian Glisson will be given his fair chance to slide ahead of Baxley on the depth-chart over the summer passing leagues and based on his recent baseball success it looks like he has the athletic ability to make his mark. Though middle school and junior high records are a little hard to come by, it is safe to say that Glisson has proven he has the tools and mindset to win ballgames at the helm.

No matter who takes over the starting quarterback spot; he will have a ton of experience and talent to give the ball to. Tift County's wide receiver corps could easily be the best in the region and maybe state. For starters, one of the most highly touted wide receivers in the class of 2007 is Blue Devil Israel Troupe. Troupe has been the number one receiver since his sophomore year and will prove to be Tift County's greatest weapon for the 2006 schedule. School's like LSU, UGA, and Florida all know his abilities well enough to extend scholarship offers. Helping to minimize double teams on Troupe will be senior Marquis King. King's talent is sometimes overshadowed by his high-profile counterpart and his receptions are sometimes kept at a minimum, even still, as a junior he caught 8 balls for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. Also helping reel in Scott Shuman passes last year was athlete Jay Gaskins. He also returns for his senior year after catching 6 passes for 44 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The running game hasn't been one of Tift County's strongest positions over the last few years, but Coach Wall's has a ton of up-and-coming talent to choose from for 2006. Lanarus McKinley looks to make his mark on the Devil's program after accepting only 19 rushes his junior year for 57 yards. Also looking to gain playing time is sophomore Steven Toomer who promises to be an exciting back in the years to come.

The offensive line was considered a week spot for the Blue Devil's in 2005. It will likely be the most improved aspect of the 2006 campaign. Coach Walls went into spring focusing on finding the right nucleus of big-men to protect the quarterback. The off-season work will show in September and much of the spotlight will focus on 6-3 220lb Mark Buhler and 6-0 220lb Almarcus Williams.

Tift County's defense loses little from the previous season. Sending away three guys to college will hardly affect the reputation Tift has earned when it comes to defense. Senior corner Randy Parker hopes to garner a little more D-1 attention over the season after running a 4.49 40-foot time at the Scout Combine in Atlanta. After intercepting 4 passes last year Parker will send a lot opposing quarterback's heads to other side of the field where they will only find yet another playmaking corner in rising junior Blake Reddick. Both of Tift's topflight corners have proven to be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to running the 5-2 defense. They both have the speed and smarts to know when to come up and shut down the outside run, along with the tackling ability to get the job done. At linebacker senior Jeffery Searcy will plan to continue his success after making 96 tackles in his junior year. Helping him out will be a freakish athlete in that of rising sophomore Josh Abbott. Abbott saw plenty of playing time on one of the best defenses in the state as only a freshman. With a 4.7 40 time and at 6-3 and 230 lbs, senior Anthony Woods will probably anchor the defensive line. Helping him out will be guys like Jay Gaskins, a guy who has the athletic build and ability to end up playing defensive end, linebacker, or even safety for the Devils or at the next level. He has shown he also has the hands to play at wide receiver and the potential to play tightend on offense.

Senior kicker Charlie Edwards probably wishes he could go back in time and straighten out a couple of field goal attempts; he was one shy from the state record in 2005 with 18. His longest was a 50 yarder but he also played a significant role in the field position game for the Devils while punting for an average of about 40 yards. Kick and punt returners Israel Troupe and Randy Parker will likely continue to strike fear into opposing special team coaches after the duo combined for 5 touchdowns in returns in 2005. Holder Christian Glisson will also return, but as mentioned before, he will be busy fighting for a little more playing time.

Tift County will hope to capitalize on home field advantage over three of the most respected teams in the region with Valdosta, Lowndes, and class AAAAA newcomer Warner Robins all making a trip to Tifton. The Devil's non-region schedule is a little tougher this year with the addition of Collins Hill, Thomas County Central, and Americus-Sumter all falling in line behind the home opener with former Blue Devil player, Coach Ryan Branch's Brooks County Trojans. Tift will travel to meet up with region foes Houston, Coffee, and Colquitt. Until the progress of a quarterback can be determined it would be impossible to predict how the Devils will end up.

In one of the toughest regions in the state it's hard to win without a solid field general. Among the few other positions that need filled it shouldn't be hard for Wall's and company to find adequate replacements with over 100 rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors vying for a starting spot on the re-energized Tift County Blue Devil football team.

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