ScoutSouth.com: McGill-Toolen Season Preview

Preston Messer

The Mike Dean Era has begun at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School. Those who recall the era of Mike Dean coordinated defenses at McGill-Toolen are ecstatic. After two seasons as the head coach at 3A Daleville High School (9 - 4 in 2008), Mike Dean has come home as the Head Football Coach and Athletic Director. Expect the Yellow Jackets to be tough, hard-nosed, disciplined and hungry.

Although the defense lost a good handful of starters (two defensive linemen, two linebackers and three defensive backs), it will still be counted on to set the overall tone and even feel the pressure of occasionally carrying the team. There are a good number of players coming back with experience after being in the playing rotation last year. The defense should be athletic, aggressive, physical and hopefully, tough to move the ball on.

Jordan Haynes (6-1, 250) slides out from defensive tackle to defensive end where he will spend his senior season after starting inside last year. Book-ending Haynes is talented junior Charles Benning (6-2, 225), who played extensively as a freshman before starting last season as a sophomore.

After being involved heavily in last year's rotation on the inside, senior Lee Howard will man one of the starting defensive tackle spots, while junior Harris Mills (6-4, 230) is expected to start alongside him. Versatile senior Henry Wright (5-11, 236) is expected to platoon heavily.

At one outside linebacker spot, versatile senior Thaddeus Lewis returns after a very solid junior campaign. He is quick and physical while being athletic enough to take snaps at QB if needed. The other outside linebacker should be Bradley Thompson, a senior who saw plenty of action last fall. He brings very good speed to the perimeter of the defense.

Senior Cory Wiggins (6-1, 230) will man the middle of the linebacking core. He's seen the field in the past, not only as a middle linebacker but as a fullback, where he still might see some snaps, and offensive guard. Junior Michael Radoslovich is a very solid backup who will see the field often.

Even though there are three starters to replace from last year's secondary, there is experience returning to go along with speed and athleticism. Heavily recruited senior cornerback Brandon Nettles is the lone returning starter. His excellent size (6-1,176) and lockdown coverage skills have him on the radar of most schools around the southeast.

Not to be outdone, junior E.J. May is very athletic in his own right, and should get his share of recruiting buzz a year from now. Both starting safeties are new this year, but juniors Cameron Martin and Josh Hawkins have both been playing on the varsity since their freshman year, and both have gained valuable experience over the past two seasons. Both players are gifted athletes who might also be called upon to help out the offense, hawkins at running back and martin at wide receiver.

Junior Matthew Shreve is pushing for playing time at strong safety behind Hawkins and should be hard to keep off the field. Sophomore Trey Roberts is also expected to log valuable minutes.

All hope is that the defense can reload and continue to be one of the strongest units in the area. It will be leaned on in the early going as the offense finds its identity. There is a lot to replace all over the offensive unit, not to mention the experience that needs to be gained if the Yellow Jackets are going to contend for another 6A Region 2 Title.

Gone from last year's team are four starters along the offensive line, one of the teams leading rushers, the top four wide receivers, the top two tight ends, the starting fullback and a three year starter at quarterback.

Expected to take over at quarterback is junior Preston Messer who has the talent, toughness and arm strength to play at the next level. While new to the roll as the full-time starter, Messer gained some valuable experience last year. Due to injury, he started a couple of games and led a second half comeback versus arch-rival Murphy High School.

There are plenty of holes to fill along the offensive line, but there is some ample tonnage to fill the space. Although, the recent loss of seniors OG Jamal Taylor (6', 288) was a big blow, there are players prepared to step up and ready the challenge.

Senior Will Henriksen (6-1, 268), the lone returning starter, is back to hold down the right tackle spot. Massive junior Byron Rich (6-3, 376) is expected to start at left tackle after gaining valuable experience last season backing up Henriksen. Senior Dalton Bryant (6-3, 290) has made the move from DL to OL and appears to be firmly entrenched as the pivot.

The guard spots will be handled by senior Cole Graddick (6-2, 275) at ROG, and junior Graylin Peek (5-11, 200) at LOG. Senior Adam Graddick (6-3, 230) and sophomore James Lett (5-9, 278) are also pushing for playing time and should see the field. The tight ends are senior Richard Drey and junior Michael George.

A trio of athletic juniors, back-up QB D.J. Bracey, speedy Matthew Delaney and Michael Holmes, who may also get touches at RB, are jockeying for slots in the receiving corps. Senior Taylor Ortego is also expected to see the field. This group has talent, but it also has some very big shoes to fill.

In the backfield, senior Derrick Burrell has settled in at one spot after getting a lot of carries last year as a backup. Junior Lance Watson looks to be the frontrunner at the other spot. McGill-Toolen is still looking for some running backs to step up and fill out the battery.

Special teams stalwart Bo Beall is returning for his third season as the teams long snapper. He brings valuable experience and production to an extremely important, yet underrated position. Senior John Galloway will take over the placekicking and punting duties, while newcomer Alex Crow will handle kickoffs.

It should be an exciting year at The Oscar P. Lipscomb Atletic Complex.

6A McGill-Toolen will host 4A UMS-Wright 7PM.

Class 6A schedules and scores [click here].

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