People have been saying that Tyler Lee may be a special team in 2008 - but I was not convinced as a journalist. Watching the gritty, epic battle against Arlington Lamar that went back and forth in 7 on 7 - a game that Tyler Lee had no business being in - one could tell that this is a team for real that will make some noise. Despite being in a tough district, they are one of the upper tier teams in the district - and if things fall right, there's no reason why Tyler Lee can't make an extended playoff run since the last time when they won the state championship in 2004. They only return 8 starters but a lot of players did find time on the field last season.
Luke Wagner filled in at quarterback last season and played well. He has good size and speed. Da Da Brown has legit 4.3 speed and Coach Owens has been touting him since he was a freshman. He should have a breakout year as a junior. Hunter Hogan has been playing since a sophomore and Coach OWens will be asking him to play both ways. The team has pretty good speed and size at receivers with Derell Tate and Joe Turner. Both looked impressive in 7 on 7. The offensive line will be pretty big, and Doug Franklin makes that line better at tight-end. He can catch passes and he can block out in the flat as well - so he will be a valuable part of the offense.
Tyler Lee has prided themselves on hard nosed tough defense and this year should be no different - especially with half the team coming back. On the defensive line, Simmon Blaylock joins Hunter Hogan as a pretty solid player. Blaylock, with a good season, may field some D1 offers. The linebackers will be a weak part of the defense - but even with the weakness, it will be a pretty solid unit. Blake Roberts saw time as a sophomore on the field and Matt Monigold played very well. He showed great speed and quickness to the ball. The secondary will be a strength of Tyler Lee. The Aubrey twins will play cornerback and safety. Josh had 3 interceptions in 2008, but Jordan is just a little bit quicker.
The Red Raiders can certainly argue having one of the toughest schedules in the state next year. To start the season, they will play 4 state ranked opponents in Lufkin, Longview, Abilene High and Marcus. Last year's game against Kimball was a defensive battle and could be this year as well. The district starts out with what is thought to be the top 2 teams in the district on the road - but Lee won't have to travel after October 17th. Tyler Lee could have a downright ugly record after 7 games - 1-6 if things don't go well, yet be considered a very strong team with potential for a great playoff run. I don't think they'll knock off Desoto or Mesquite - but they should run the table after that and probably advance at least one round in the playoffs. It could be a rocky start but promising ending for the Tyler Lee Red Raiders in 2008.