But the Trojans will be taking a slightly different approach after graduating 34 seniors, most of whom were starters last fall. Lassiter coach Jep Irwin feels confident at the offensive skill positions, but the remaining positions are up for grabs, especially on defense, where there are no starters coming back.
After winning five straight games to end the regular season and claim the Region 5AAAAAA title, the Trojans (7-4) are relying on last fall’s role players to become leaders. As a result, Irwin and his staff kept spring practice simple by concentrating strictly only on basic fundamentals.
A future bright spot for Lassiter could be its sophomore-heavy roster. Last year’s freshman team went 6-1, winning games by an average of three touchdowns.
“We have a large sophomore class, but they’re sophomores,” Irwin cautioned. “It’s a different kind of team than we have had in the past. Now, it looks like we will have more first-time juniors playing this year, and a lot of sophomores who will play a significant role. That’s OK. It happens from time to time.”
With a younger team, Lassiter will depend greatly on its skill players to lead the way.
Senior Russell Aarons is the projected starting quarterback after splitting time between quarterback and receiver last season. Senior Oris Lawhorn and sophomore Mason Waters are experienced in the backfield.
Receiver Pearson Vanhorn, a rising senior, is returning this season after playing in the slot, and rising junior Cole Taylor could have an expanded role after taking a few snaps last year.
But new faces will likely occupy remaining starting wide receiver positions to help fill the shoes of graduates Quincy Perdue, Blake Penter and Duby Nwaubi.
There will be experience on the offensive line, with seniors Phillip Murray and Gregg Wentz returning, but the remaining positions up front are still wide-open.
The same goes with every position on defense.
“It’s a young team, but I’m really excited to coach this group,” Irwin said. “Coaches will have to adjust to the fact that we’re coaching inexperienced guys.”
Rising senior Jacob Chambers has the most experience on the defensive line, while senior linebacker Corey Gildea is coming off a solid spring. Rising junior Alex Adams has the most experience at safety, and Lassiter will have to replace both of its cornerbacks.
The opening portion of the Trojans’ 2014 schedule will test the young squad immediately. They will open the season with three of the county’s top teams in Hillgrove, Kell and Walton.
“We’re not good right now, but we don’t need to be,” Irwin said. “We’re going to get our chance against Hillgrove and Kell. We want to play those games and be a program that plays a tough schedule. Our goal is the same, but we’re starting at a different place.”