RANBURNE — Most Class 2A football coaches have trouble finding a qualified player for every position. Ranburne coach Chad Young faces a different dilemma.
“We’re looking at probably 20 kids that can play on the offensive side of the ball,” Young said after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s a good problem to have. … They all have a good attitude about it and they deserve to get to play. We’ve just got to find the right combination at the right time.”
The Bulldogs began adding 12 to 15 passes a game to their traditional power running attack two years ago. The change paid big dividends last year, including the region championship and a 10-2 record. In his sophomore year, quarterback Dylan Wiggins took to the new offense like a duck to water. He should be even more effective disguising handoffs and making precise throws as a junior. Running back Dylan Tullis returns for his senior season after leading Ranburne in rushing in 2014. Logan Otwell, Donovan Tullis and Dalton Wiggins should also get carries.
“We’re going to have, I think, the ability to not have to have anybody carry it over six or seven times a game,” Young said.
The backs will also be targets when the Bulldogs throw. Included in the receiver positions will be Adam Sheppard and Brayden Wilson at tight end with Dustin Chambers, Kyle Lovvorn, Owen Smith and Dylan Thrower as the wide receivers.
The offensive line returns Zach Patterson at guard and Ryan Smith at tackle. Joining Patterson will be G.W. Caldwell, Jacob Ertzberger and Riley Smith. Nick Ward, Trent Williams and Blake Young are tackles. The Bulldog coach said he expects all eight to play regularly. At center, Logan Sibley, Young and freshman Lee Jackson are working in pre-season practice.
Sophomore Jake Howle returns to handle extra points and field goals. Howle added to his distance and accuracy in the offseason. At a practice last week, he connected on nine of 10 tries from 35 yards out and was 1-for-1 from 45 yards.
On defense, look for Ranburne to stick with its scheme of three down linemen, five linebackers and three secondary players.
“It just gives us so much flexibility,” Young noted. “We can defend shotgun, spread, two-tight-end wishbone. We don’t have to change defenses to adapt to what somebody’s doing.”
The three-man front will be a rotation of Sheppard, Williams, Ward, Riley Smith, Young, Patterson, Sibley and Ertzberger. That grouping should keep fresh legs on the field on both sides of the ball.
Chambers and Donovan Tullis are the likely starters as outside linebackers with Jordan Beal in a relief role. Lovvorn moves to the middle of the three inside linebackers after playing outside last year. Young will be his backup. Caldwell will play the strong-side linebacker and Dalton Wiggins will be on the weak side. Hunter McAdams, Ertzberger and Sibley will spell them.
Look for Otwell and Wilson to start at the corners in the secondary with Thrower and Dylan Tullis behind them. Dylan Wiggins and Owen Smith will rotate at safety.
Woodland is the only holdover region opponent for Ranburne in the new reclassification. The Bulldogs won’t have to face rugged Wellborn and Fultondale in region action again but pick up perennial power Reeltown and up-and-coming Lanett.
“It’s probably a pretty even swap,” Young said of the additions and subtractions from the region schedule.