Way-too-early football predictions; Part 2

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

It’s time for some more way-too-early 2015 Shelby County football predictions! In the first installment of the way-too-early predictions, we took a look at the Chelsea Hornets, and how they can be (or can’t be, again, this is July, things change) expected to fare in the upcoming fall season. Moving forward, the Briarwood Lions are the subject of part two of the Shelby County way-too-early football analysis and predictions.

Fred Yancey has been around for a long time, and last season hit the quarter-century mark as the Briarwood head coach. Entering his 26th season as the head coach of the Lions, there isn’t much Yancey hasn’t seen or dealt with. Even so, losing his two-year starting quarterback to an in-county school is a tough pill to swallow. Walker Lott, a rising senior, has moved across the county and will line up under center for Thompson in 2015. Briarwood will miss Lott’s leadership and size, but has moved on and is focused on developing junior quarterback William Gray in its second year as a 6A team.

Gray had a great spring, according to Yancey and will likely hold the starting job when the season starts. He can make the throws he needs to make and does the one thing quarterbacks need to do to be successful above all else, simply completes passes. In the backfield with Gray will be Carson Eddy, healthy after breaking his collarbone in the eighth game of the 2014 season against Minor. Eddy will only be a sophomore and does not have imposing size, but moves very well and can make people miss. He will be counted on heavily to carry the offense, as the Lions receiver situation is still murky, and Yancey’s spread offense will likely incorporate as many as eight receivers.

The defensive line returns two of the premier linemen in the county in Carter Bankston and RJ Jennings. Bankston is committed to the Naval Academy and will once again need to wreak havoc up front from his nose guard spot. Jennings, who comes in at about 6-feet-2-inches in height and weighs around 235 pounds, can play on the interior next to Bankston or slide out to play defensive end if needed. These two will need to command the trenches for Briarwood’s defense to be effective.

Helping the defensive line will be a very versatile group of linebackers. Senior Sam Sherrod returns to his slot at outside backer, and will also split time as a running back to help take the load off Eddy. Opposite Sherrod will be Jordan Harmon and James Holladay. Harmon will also split time at defensive end while Holladay is capable of dropping back into coverage as a safety.

The Lions have an intriguing mix of experience and youth across the board. The main question on offense will rely on how the backfield develops. Can Gray blossom into a true gun slinging threat in the spread? Will Eddy continue on his upward trajectory and turn into a dominant runner? Can Sherrod morph into a productive back? However these questions play themselves out will likely have a direct correlation to Briarwood’s win-loss column.

Briarwood’s region, Region 5, was not particularly strong last season. Homewood went undefeated in the region and won every game by an average margin of more than 16 points, but was never ranked in the top 10 in the state in class 6A and got bounced in the second round of the playoffs. The region is ripe for the taking if someone can step up to the task.

Way-too-early prediction: Briarwood’s defense will have to carry the Lions early on, a tall ask after giving up 24 points per game last year, as the offense finds its stride. The Lions will take need some time to find a rhythm, but will squeeze enough wins out of the second half of the season to get back to the playoffs with a 5-5 record. In the playoffs, with some momentum and a well-orchestrated attack, the Lions surprise some people and win a game in the 6A state playoffs.