But not the 10th-ranked Jones County Junior College Bobcats.
Hazlehurst sophomore Kenny Coleman (6-1, 164) and Oak Grove redshirt sophomore Steven Swindle (6-1, 195) each enjoyed success last year, as they guided the Bobcats to a 9-2 record and an MACJC South Division championship.
First-year head coach David Thornton is thrilled to have the duo return this fall.
“Having those guys around for a second year is big,” said Thornton, who also serves as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. “The leadership they bring to the team is huge. Both of them are good players and that tandem led us to the state championship game last year. We are excited that they are both back.
“We are confident in both of them and their abilities and what they can do to help this team.”
Coleman is effective at either running or throwing ball.
In 2013, he completed 80-of-149 passes for 1,261 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed 62 times for 130 yards and two scores.
“Kenny is an athletic guy and is very smart,” Thornton said. “He has developed well and progressed since last year. He sees things better and understands things much better.”
Even though he is listed at only 164 pounds, Coleman seems to avoid taking punishment most of the time.
“He manages not to get hit and I’m good with that,” Thornton quipped. “I like that aspect about him. He is an athletic guy and he is hard to get a lick on solidly. He can move around and that is a dynamic to his game. He can move around and avoid pressure. He can turn something bad into something good.”
Thornton also points out that Coleman has a knack for putting his teams into position to win state championships. He guided Hazlehurst to the MHSAA 3A title game in 2011 and 2012 and helped the Bobcats to the MACJC championship game last year.
“The big thing that stands out to me about Kenny is that he has played in the state championship game on some level in three straight years,” Thornton said. “In his last two years of high school and his one year in college, he has played in the state championship game. He’s a winner. He knows how to win and how to get things done.
“That’s huge and that’s hard to overlook. There are not too many players that I know of that can say that.”
The return of Swindle is a pleasant surprise for the Bobcats.
He redshirted at Mississippi State University in 2012 before transferring to JCJC last year. He signed with Arkansas Tech after last season, but elected to return to Jones.
Swindle was an All-MACJC second-team performer last year when he completed 155-of-271 passes for 2,339 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Steven brings a lot of experience to the table for us,” Thornton said. “He’s an older guy. He has great vision, he sees the field well and gets rid of the ball quickly. He had some huge games for us last year and did a great job.
“The combination of Kenny and Steven gives us two of the better quarterbacks in the league.”
Another quarterback is in the mix.
Kemper County freshman Kelvin Bourrage (6-1, 185) has impressed the coaches during preseason.
“Kelvin is an athletic guy that keeps getting better with every practice,” Thornton said. “We like how he is progressing and at some point in the season, you will see him out there.”
Thornton, who is being helped with the quarterbacks by graduate assistant Darin Farris, wants the Bobcats to play at a quick pace. But he also wants them to be smart with the football and limit turnovers as much as possible.
“We emphasize several things, but the number one statistic, besides the score, is turnovers,” he said. “Turnovers determine wins and losses and we harp on that daily. We do some type of ball security drill every day because it’s that important.
“Good offenses don’t turn the ball over. That’s what our expectations are everyday when we go out to practice. We go out there with that in mind and we work hard on being a solid unit.”
The Bobcats posted outstanding numbers on offense in 2013. They averaged 40.3 points per game and racked up 463 yards per contest, which was second in the MACJC and eighth in the NJCAA.
JCJC must replace several standouts from that team, but Thornton likes the way they have progressed.
“We are at a point where we have done the same thing since summer,” he said. ‘The guys are starting to have a better grasp and understanding of what we are trying to do and what we are trying to accomplish. I think they all see things much better.
“It’s like with every offense, you just need time and repetition.”
The Bobcats open the season at 6:30 p.m. (EST) on Aug. 28 at Northwest Mississippi. The game will air on www.jcjc.tv with Mark Easley and Ed Smith on the call.
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