Demontay Jones is back for the Fort Valley State Wildcats, and there are five other returning starters on the offense.
But even after the Wildcats won the SIAC title in 2016, head coach Kevin Porter isn’t satisfied with his offense. He wants to see more productivity and balance from that unit during the 2017 season, which opens with the Wildcats traveling to West Georgia on Aug. 31.
“Offensively, it’s going to be a challenge,” Porter said. “We want to do a better job of running the football, obviously, but if we can go out and get the right mindset about what we’re trying to do, I think we’ll be OK.”
The Wildcats struggled to run the ball in 2016, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and 139.1 yards per game. Jamari Clark led the way with 438 yards on 90 carries, while Chauncey Jackson added 304 yards on 95 carries.
Junior offensive lineman Julian Williams is excited about his head coach’s challenge to improve the running game, and Williams thinks his group is up to that challenge.
“We can be very good. Our offense is more established this year than it was last year,” Williams said of the team’s 1-6 start. “Last year, it took a little while to get going. We started off slow, but toward the end of the season, we were able to pick it up. A lot of our offense last year was based on inside runs and play-action passes, so we plan to incorporate some of that from last year into this year.
“(The offensive line is) a big group this year. We have a lot more height and a lot more weight, and we’re going to be able to run a lot more this year.”
Helping improve the running game will be the return of Jones, who played in only seven of the team’s 11 games last year. Now a junior, he passed for 1,002 yards and nine touchdowns but completed only 49.6 percent of his passes (69-of-138) and did throw eight interceptions.
Bodarius Johnson, who had 17 catches for 365 and two touchdowns in 2016, is a key returning weapon, as well.
“I just took it as a learning experience, the time I did get hurt. I took it as a time to be able to read defenses and kind of look at the game through a coach’s eyes,” Jones said. “I’m pretty confident. I’ve got a year in the system, so I kind of know everything around what they want to do.”