"I have a passion for this league. It's the best junior college conference in the nation, and on a weekly basis you better be ready to play."
Message sent. He’s already checked the schedule – the one gift-wrapped at his doorstep.
First four games in a five-week span for a young Ranger team?
Try at El Dorado, Kan., against No. 4 Butler, at No. 25 Tyler, hosting No. 17 Navarro in the conference opener, and following that up with a date at Brenham against No. 3 Blinn.
"Some welcome-back present," he said.
Eckert replaced Jimmy Rieves, who took another position at Kilgore College after compiling a 48-27 record in seven seasons and led the Rangers to a strong 6-6 finish, a 20-14 overtime loss to Blinn in the conference championship game and a 19-7 CHAMPS Heart O' Texas Bowl win over Fort Scott Community College at Copperas Cove, Tx.
"We'll have an inexperienced team that we hope will get better through the process and blossom at the right time," Eckert said.
Eckert said the Rangers are strong offensively at quarterback with redshirt sophomore Jared Wallace, the offensive line with sophomores Brad Guillory, Robin Williams and Anthony Holder, and at tight end with LaMarcus Bogany and redshirt freshman Woody McClendon.
Wallace, who threw for 1,200 yards and 8 touchdowns, "is a quality quarterback who understands and makes the right decisions," Eckert said. "We just hope he’s durable enough."
Eckert said Kilgore needs to find someone to run the football if it is to be successful on that side of the ball.
''If you look at the great teams that have played in this conference, national championship teams like Navarro in 1989, Trinity Valley in 1994, Blinn in 1995 and 1996 and again in 2006, all of those teams ran the football well. Our biggest question mark on offense is at running back. We just don't have that guy on campus right now.''
Redshirt freshman Cornelius Shackleford of Tyler John Tyler capped a big spring game with 141 yards, but the Rangers are counting on help at tailback from the likes of freshmen Antowoine Smith (Paris North Lamar) who averaged 241 yards per game as a high school senior and Mike Brown (Brandon, Fla.) who amassed 2,700 yards in his final two varsity seasons.
"We want to be multiple, but we’ve got to find a running back for the situation going into it," Eckert said.
Kilgore took a hit defensively during the offseason with the dismissal of preseason NJCAA All-American defensive lineman Adrian Johnson.
''You want to have good kids who do the right things, and you have to do what's right for the football program,'' Eckert said of Johnson's dismissal.
Sophomore defensive tackle Kendrick Jones of West Columbia fills one line slot, while reshirt freshman Kendall Abron of Gilmer and converted linebacker Tony Johnson of Longview are penciled at ends.
Cornerback Jamall Skipper's experience from 8 starts with three interceptions is critical to the secondary's development. Letterman Kurt Rossum from Kilgore at the other corner, Alief Elsik's Shea Rodriguez at safety, and Northwestern State transfer Trey Sands figure to contribute.
HEAD COACH: J.J. Eckert (1st Year)
ASSISTANT COACHES: Russell Thompson (DC), Jordan Lesley (LB), Stevie Moore (DB), Willie Gooden (OL), Scott Chism (RB)
2006 SEASON RECORD: 6-6
2006 SWJCFC RECORD: 3-3
POSITION IN STANDINGS: Three-way tie for 2nd Place
2006 BOWL APPEARANCE: Won The CHAMPS Heart O’ Texas Bowl at Copperas Cove, Tx., over Fort Scott (Ks.) Community College, 19-7.
KEY SOPHOMORES: QB Jared Wallace, QB Logan Morris, TE LaMarcus Bogany, WR Earnest Quander, WR Joe Rogers, OL Brad Guillory, OL Robin Williams, OL, Anthony Holder, DT Kendrick Jones, LB Kelcie Oliver, DB Jamall Skipper, DB Kurt Rossum, P Jonathon Whitehurst, PK Martin Vazquez, DS Holt McCoy.
KEY REDSHIRT FRESHMEN: RB Cornelius Shackelford, FB Tiemeyer White, WR Fabian Price, TE Woody McClendon, OL Charlie Perez, OL Delvin Herndon, DL Kendall Abron, LB Jared McCarty, LB T.J. Norris.
FRESHMAN RECRUITS: Jeremy Alix (5-11, 250, DL, Fort Bend Hightower); Ray Berry (6-2, 175, Ath, Wichita Falls Hirschi); Chris Brooks (6-2, 290, OL, Denison); Brad Brown, (6-2, 320, OL, Rowlett); Logan Bryant (6-3, 190, Ath., Brownsboro); Dominique Buchanan (6-2, 235, LB, Gilmer); Cameron Burger (6-3, 255, OL, Lewisville Hebron); Malik Cardwell-Jacobs (6-3, 195, WR, Sachse); Qualon Childress (6-0, 210, DB, Desoto); Lorenzo Cortez (5-10, 175, DB, Jefferson); Max Flinn (6-2, 180, QB, Houston Bellaire); Bradley Frazier (6-2, 260, OL, Denison); Shane Fry (6-1,185, QB/P, Hallsville); Dunterius Goodman (6-2, 225, LB, Gilmer); Chris Gouldthorpe (6-2, 320, OL, Tyler Lee); James Hicks (6-1, 255, DL, Arlington Lamar); Kendrick Johnson (5-8, 175, Ath., Mexia); Tim Jordan-Moore (6-4, 260, DL, Friendswood Clear Brook); Alex Kauai (6-1, 270, DL, Euless Trinity); Mitch Kay (6-4, 280, OL, New Diana); Chase Logan (6-3, 260, OL, Groesbeck); Amos McCord (6-2, 260, OL, Hughes Springs); John Niutei (6-3, 300, OL, Euless Trinity); Stephen Roberson (6-2, 225, DL, The Colony); DeAundray Rossum (5-11, 175, WR, Kilgore); Joseph Schumpert (5-11, 185, LB, Jefferson); Jerek Sheffield (5-8, 180, TB, Kilgore); LaQuintan Smith (5-11, 170, DB, Irving); Jesse Smitherman (6-4, 220, TE, Burleson); Darius Valentine (6-0, 175, WR, Hallsville); Petty Westmoreland (6-2, 215, LB, Beckville); Joseph Whitaker (6-0, 230, FB, Jacksonville); Eric Willis (6-0, 195, LB, Fort Bend Hightower); Antowoine Smith (5-7, 170, RB, Paris North Lamar); Devane Jarmon (5-11, 250, FB, Giddings); L.T. Gaston (FB, Queen City); Terrance Henry (WR, Crockett); Justin Loftis (6-5, 250, TE, Rockport); Steve Wallace (TE, San Antonio Reagan); Ben Silvera (6-0, 210, LB, Columbus, Ga.); Mike Brown (5-7, 174, RB, Brandon, Fla.)
KEY TRANSFERS: Trey Sands (DB, Tr-Northwestern State, La.)
2006 RANGER SCHEDULE
Date, Opponent, Time
Aug 25 - at Butler CC, Ks., 7 p.m.
Sept 1 - at Tyler JC, 7 p.m.
Sept 8 - OPEN
Sept 15 - Navarro *, 7 p.m.
Sept 22 - at Blinn *, 7 p.m.
Sept 29 - Arkansas Baptist, 3 p.m.
Oct 6 - Tyler JC, 3 p.m.
Oct 13 - at Trinity Valley, 3 p.m.
Oct 20 - NE Oklahoma A&M, 3 p.m.
Oct 27 - at Cisco, 3 p.m.