He was an unseasoned, inexperienced sophomore when he was named the starting quarterback heading into the 2012 season, but head coach Lynn Kendall felt Will Smith was ready for the responsibility.
Smith was under center for that year’s season opener against Redan, and he has remained in the lineup ever since.
When the Tigers kick off a new season on Aug. 29 against LaGrange, Smith will be heading into his third season as a starter, and he’ll be the trigger-man for what should be a potent offense.
While the Tigers have to replace running back Daryl Dunlap, as well as a few other gifted offensive players, there is plenty of talent left in the fold.
It helps to have a talented, experienced player like Smith running the offense.
It also helps that Smith and the other players will be running the same offense for the second straight year.
“I think we’ll have a pretty explosive offense, especially this being our second year in it,” Smith said. “Everybody’s getting used to it.”
That run-oriented offense produced a pair of 1,000-yard running backs a year ago in Dunlap and Towns.
Dunlap is gone, but Towns is back, and he will be a huge part of the Tigers’ offense this season.
Troup has a handful of other talented running backs as well, and while there isn’t much experience at the wide-receiver position, Troup coach Lynn Kendall likes the skill level at that position.
Troup also has the luxury of having a veteran offensive line, with four of the five starters returning.
Leading the offense is Smith, an accurate passer who can also do some damage with his legs.
Offensive lineman Tristan Thompson said having a familiar face at quarterback is a huge plus.
“We’re used to playing with him. We’re used to the way he calls things,” Thompson said.
Kendall said the attributes that led him to make Smith a starter in 2012 are still very much evident heading into his senior season.
“He’s mentally tough, he’s physically tough,” Kendall said. “He’s a great human being. He’s a pleasure to coach. I think the world of him, and the effort that he gives is great.”
Smith will likely spend a lot of time handing the ball to Towns this season.
Towns split the carries almost evenly with Dunlap a year ago, and the two combined to run for more than 2,000 yards.
“Dre has speed, strength, and power,” Kendall said. “He has good vision.”
Towns will hardly be a one-man show, though.
Mess Bonner and Vanquez Bonner both had some big runs last season, and Cameron Russell provided a spark early in the season before he was slowed by injuries.
Russell scored Troup’s first touchdown last season as a freshman.
Kendall also figures Tay Moreland and Jonathan Foster could get some looks at running back, and Dexter Shealey - the backup quarterback - is a talented runner as well.
“We’re pretty happy with where we are right now (at running back),” Kendall said. “We’ve got a long ways to go. But we’re ahead of where we were last year at this time from the position.”
Those running backs will benefit from having an imposing offensive line, led by senior Mitch Mathes, who has been starting since his freshman season.
Thompson, Jason Hernandez and Hudson Newton were also starters on the offensive line last season.
“Everybody knows what to do,” Mathes said. “It helps out when everybody is on the same page.”
The Tigers lack experience at the wide receiver position, but Kendall believes junior Tremayne Tolbert is poised for a breakthrough season.
“He has had an excellent transformation over the year,” Kendall said. “Not only has he physically grown, but he has done things in the weight room, and through our strength and conditioning activities we do to make him a very powerful player.”
Russell, Foster, Shealey, Ken Truitt, and Jack Schweizer are other wide receivers for the Tigers, and Kendall said tight end Travis Johnson is a weapon as well.
“He has good hands, runs good routes for you,” Kendall said of Johnson. “He does whatever is necessary to try to get better. He cares about the little things and making himself a better ballplayer.”
Add it all up, and the Tigers have the look of a team that should be able to make life difficult for opposing defenses.
“It helps having pretty much the whole offense coming back,” Thompson said. “We should put up some big numbers this year.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 (ext. 232) or on Twitter @lagrangesports