KOSSUTH — Is this the year Kossuth returns to the top half of the Division 1-A standings?
Aggies head coach Brian Kelly, entering his 11th year at the helm, has several new pieces to place but seems to have found the right one at quarterback, the most important position on the field.
McNairy Central transfer Jack Johnson, a 6-2, 180-pound junior QB with a live arm, will fill the void left by two-year starter Brock Seago. Johnson started for the Bobcats last season as a sophomore, so the experience is on his side.
According to the coach he has fit in quite nicely with the returning players.
“Jack has slipped right into the starting job and the guys have welcomed him with open arms,” said Kelly. “He has a really good arm, he can move in the pocket and has soaked up our playbook all summer. He seems very comfortable now and we are expecting good things from him this year.”
Kossuth will feature a small senior class – one of the smallest in recent memory – containing just seven upperclassmen.
“We are very junior and sophomore dominated this season,” said the KHS headman. “We probably have more sophomores than juniors but it’s close. No matter, our lines will be the strength of our team from the get-go.”
Kelly said the offensive and defensive lines are very experienced and the linebacking crew falls in the same category.
The concern for the Aggies coaching staff was filling the holes left by the departure of Seago, along with running back Zamarius Alexander and receivers Keb Brawner and Clayton Jacobs.
“It’s always a concern when you lose players like that, especially at key skill positions,” said Kelly. “But it’s always been next man up for us, as it is for all teams each and every year. You’re gonna lose players so that means other players get their chance.”
The Kossuth coaching staff will include offensive coordinator Jay Vandiver, offensive and defensive line coach Richey Dillinger, wide receiver and defensive backs coach Josh McCalmon, linebacker coach Brandon Pittman and special teams and defensive back coach Brandon Bobo.
“We have a really good staff of coaches who do a great job with their position groups getting us ready to play,” Kelly said.
With Johnson behind center, he will be looking to his teammates for help on the offensive side of the ball. Kelly mentioned sophomore Brady Kelly and junior Ethan Tucker being prime candidates for a majority of the running back snaps while senior Hunter Bright, senior Peyton Mitchell and junior Blake Doles will receive the first shot at the receiver position.
Taylor Ford, a junior, will be the tight end.
Paving the way for the offense to gain yardage and score points this fall will be a big, strong and talented offensive line. Junior center Nate Gay will anchor the line at the center. He will be flanked to his left by senior tackle Landon Lewis and junior guard Jackson Dupree with senior guard Devin Scott and junior tackle Trace Wegmann on the right.
“We will be really strong and physical upfront and that should help us as we break in new offensive starters at the skill positions,” said the KHS head coach.
Gay will also anchor the defensive line at nose tackle while senior Wes Phillips, sophomore Jake Raines and Wegmann will rotate at defensive end.
Senior Tate Rogers will man the ‘Sam’ linebacker position. He will be joined on the Aggies’ second line of defense by Tucker at the ‘Mike’, junior Braxton Tucker on the weak side and junior Evan Patton at outside ‘backer.
“Tucker can play all over the field so we will use him at several places on defense,” said Kelly.
Staring in the Kossuth defensive backfield will be junior corners Reece Crum and Blake Doles. They will be aided by Bright and Johnson at safety.
Sophomore Brody Hajek will serve as the kicking specialist while Bright will handle punting duties again this season.
Doles and Kelly will return kicks while Johnson is penciled in as the punt returner.
“We have a tough schedule just like we always do,” said the coach.
“But that’s the way we plan it every year. You get better by playing better teams. We start with Baldwyn, which is always hard to play and well-coached, and then we get three 4A teams in a row in Corinth, Ripley and Tishomingo County before a really good Adamsville team comes in for homecoming then we open division against Booneville. There are no easy weeks so we will have to be ready.”