Maryville coach George Quarles said the Rebels won’t have a 4.3-burner in this fall’s receiving corps, but it would be terrible mistake for an unsuspecting defensive back not to give Dalton Graumann a little cushion.
The lanky, 6-foot-1 rising senior may be an unknown, but he’s had the kind of spring practice you notice the last two weeks. He can really get down the field.
“He’s had a great spring,” Quarles said. “He caught about everything that was thrown at him.”
Maryville is likely to look at getting back in the air in a big way this fall, the loss of quarterback and 2,000-yard passer Philip Juhlin withstanding. Juhlin will be a freshman at Carson-Newman this fall. In his place at Maryville, the Patton Robinette era is set for launch. The 6-foot-3 rising junior has shown off a powerful arm this spring. The potential big-time college prospect adds a substantial running dimension as well.
Key in Robinette’s development this spring has been in not asking him to do too much, Quarles said.
Juhlin had the intangible of genuine leadership in guiding the Rebels to last season’s Class 6A state championship game in the first year of the classification. For Robinette, that kind of field generalship will only come with time, Quarles said.
“He’s had a really nice spring,” he said. “He’s definitely improved from last season to this spring. He was tons better. He doesn’t have to be everything Philip was last year. He just needs to make plays.
“For right now, Patton looks like he’ll be the leader, and he needs to come back in the fall and act like it.”
Fortunately, unlike when Juhlin took over a year ago, Robinette looks as if he’ll have no shortage of experienced targets at the receivers. The Rebels broke in four new pass catchers on the run to state a year ago, and three of them — rising senior Stian Romberg and rising junior Clarence Langley most prominent — are back. If rising senior Preston Burnette isn’t running at sub 4.4-second speed at 40 yards, he’s awfully close. And trust us. You’ll be hearing from Graumann.
“We’re really deep at receiver,” Quarles said. “We don’t have that burner everybody wants, but we’re pretty deep there.”
With Robinette at the controls, the Rebels have displayed an at times stinging passing attack in the making this spring. Rising senior Austin Canfield looks a ready backup should Robinette not hold onto the top spot come fall. Rising sophomore Logan Winders and rising senior Jared Miller have also received their share of reps this spring.
Quarles-coached teams at Maryville have always shown balance offensively, though. Addressing needs at running back has been one of this spring’s top priorities.
Faulkner signee Buddy Jones was one of the biggest losses to graduation, Quarles said.
“We’re certainly going to miss 1,000 yards of rushing,” he said.
While he spent spring practice with the school’s record-setting baseball team, rising junior Jacob West more than fits the bill as a projected feature back. It’s who will line up alongside him that may not be decided until fall.
Robby Pederson, Nick Coode, Justin Myers, Brandon Cooper and Jay Yoakum have each auditioned for the spot this spring. Incoming freshman Shawn Prevo will get a look there as well.
“It may be one of those things we do by committee,” Quarles said. “If he (Prevo) can do it, we’ll give him a shot.”
Youthful along the offensive line a year ago, the Rebels are likely to pack more of a punch up front in 2010. Steven Brandley has had “a great spring,” Quarles said, and has emerged as one of the biggest surprises.
Defensively, Maryville began 2009 with nine starters to replace on defense. A sizeable number of Rebels got on-the-job training during last year’s march to the title game. Benefiting most, from the looks of things this spring, has been the development of rising junior Nathan Miranda and rising sophomore Trace Fuller at the linebackers. Fuller is a big hitter. Jones and West doubled at linebacker a season ago. West not having to play both sides come fall could be a big plus.
“We’re going to be better at linebacker I believe,” Quarles said.
The move from Class 4A to the state’s newly-created highest classification last season brought with it more contests that went well into the fourth quarter before being decided. If the scenario repeats itself this fall, the Rebels still hold an ace in the hole few programs can match. Rising senior place-kicker Zach Sharp was the only member of last year’s team to take an official visit to a Division I program. He hasn’t lost anything this spring. That part of the season to come isn’t an unknown at all.