It's time for Tigers to go back to work

Published 9:34 pm Tuesday, August 3, 2004

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
As high school football teams across the sate of Alabama get set for the start of practice Monday, each squad has its share of questions it must answer.
Here are 10 questions for the T.R. Miller Tigers.
Can T.R. Miller snap the Pike County hex?
Not many teams have had Coach Jamie Riggs' number over the years, but Pike County is one of them.
The Bulldogs have beaten T.R. Miller four straight times, which includes three times in the last two seasons. In fact, T.R. Miller has not beaten Pike County since a 36-22 triumph in the 1991 state quarterfinals.
With Pike County being the defending Class 3A state and Region 1 champ and T.R. Miller being the 2002 state champ, the road to the Region 1 crown may very well go through these perennial juggernauts once again.
How will the Tigers replace the production and leadership of Brad Lannom at quarterback? A related question may be which will the Tigers miss more, Lannom's 1500 yards passing or the fact he threw just two interceptions last season?
That will not be answered until T.R. Miller settles on a starter for the position. Junior Antonio Gomez was a backup to Lannom for that role last year. Junior Jordan Cauley and sophomore Baxley Raines guided T.R. Miller to an undefeated record at the B team level last season.
Will Antonio Gomez be a "secret weapon" on kick returns again this season?
Gomez averaged nearly half a football field (47.5 yards) over 12 kickoffs last season with four touchdowns.
Teams that do their homework will quickly learn not to kick to number 12. In addition, if the Tigers can cut down the 259 points they allowed last season, that will also reduce Gomez's opportunities.
Will the defense be able to reduce the points allowed this season?
As just mentioned, the Tigers gave up 259 point last season. That comes out to a decent, but hardly outstanding average of 18.5 per game.
T.R. Miller's potent offense racked up one of the higher scoring totals in state history last season when it amassed a school record 556 points (39.8 per game). With the number of players T.R. Miller lost last season, it is hard to imagine the Tigers could be as productive. Less offensive production means more pressure for the defense.
How well will new assistant coaches Marc Edge and Eddie Brundidge fit into Riggs' staff?
This will probably not be an issue, but over the years the Tigers have had little turnover on its coaching staff in the Riggs era.
Brundidge had a previous stint in Riggs' system so that part should not be a huge adjustment, but Brundidge is making the move from head coach at Jackson back to assistant coach at T.R. Miller. Edge had a head coaching stint at Daleville before a move to assistant coach at Robert E. Lee.
Both have had most of the summer to get acquainted and reacquainted to the system.
What will it be like without the services of Alabama recruit Trent Davidson at tight end for the first time since 1999?
The Tigers will sorely miss Davidson's production and leadership at that spot. Senior Tyler Shehan and juniors Jason McCreary and Wade McCall came out of spring practice in a tight battle for the spot.
Shehan does have some heroics on his side. It was Shehan who caught a touchdown reception with five seconds left that forced overtime in the state semifinals against Pike County.
Will the offensive line hold up?
Graduation probably hit the Tigers hardest at the line where senior Michael Mashburn is one of the few players back with much experience.
Mashburn and seniors James Hildreth and Steven Robinson came out of spring practice as the top contenders for guards spots. Seniors David Stokes, Tyler Chapman and Quentin Rogers got significant work at tackle. Junior Brooks Fussell and Justin Marshall got extensive work at center.
With better than 1,500 yards of production from Skylar Fountain and Michael Jones gone, who will lead the Tigers running game?
Junior Tim Atcher may get one of the first calls. Atcher showed some flashes of promises, especially during a late season stint when Jones was sidelined due to a spider bite to his hand. Atcher ran for 99 yards in a playoff win over Midfield.
Will the Tigers take advantage of home cooking?
If T.R. Miller can survive games at Escambia County and Straughn at the start of the season, it has a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
Six of Tigers' next eight games will be at home. That includes three in a row against Dale County, Abbeville and Andalusia September 10, 17, 24.
Which will be a bigger anniversary celebration…the 20th anniversary of the 1984 state champs or the 30th anniversary of Andrew "Zeke" Johnson as team manager?
The 1984 state champs, who went 12-3 en route to the crown, will be honored at the Andalusia game. Johnson will be honored at the season finale against Jay.
Both the 1984 team and Johnson have both provided the school countless memories.