WARNER ROBINS -- Breaking in a new quarterback is always an attention-getting situation for a football team.
At Northside, the No. 2 receiver from 2013 is the favorite to take over for Marcus Ivory, who passed for nearly 1,300 yards last season.
Tanner Smith threw two more passes last year than Jurmon Weaver, who threw none. Tobias Oliver is a sophomore with the least amount of quarterback experience but with plenty of potential, having worked his way into the race.
Weaver, however, appears to be the favorite to win the job as the season nears.
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“Jurmon Weaver and Tanner Smith are kids that played quarterback all the way from the ninth grade on through,” head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “Our system, from ninth grade on through is the same.”
They also have virtually no experience in the starting position on Friday nights.
“It is a little bit different when you’re the new guy,” Kinsler said. “The big thing is being able to handle the responsibility.”
Weaver made his non-quarterback debut in 2013 at wideout and caught 16 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns. The bright lights are nothing new for him.
Smith was only 2-for-2 passing but did carry the ball 21 times for 64 yards.
Willie Jordan will take some pressure off the position. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder led Northside with 19 rushing touchdowns, and his 1,067 yards rushing were second behind Glenn Smith (1,118). Jordan also caught 11 passes for 145 yards.
“The thing we know we’re going to do that we always do is we’re going to run the football,” Kinsler said. “Willie weighs about 235 pounds. That’s going to be the stabilizing (aspect).”
Nate Greene caught only nine passes last season. Unless Smith takes over at quarterback and Weaver returns to receiver, Greene is the most experienced wideout.
An experienced offensive line is led by Division I prospect Brandon Sandifer, along with Quentin Stanford and Tyler Dunn. Trey Scott, Caleb Kelly and Wesley Bateman shore up the unit.
“We don’t have a whole offensive line back or a whole receiving corps back,” said Kinsler, who also doesn’t have a slew of running backs with major experience. “So probably the most solid is the offensive line.”
The Eagles have some gaps to fill on defense, as well, in starting roles and in boosting depth. But there’s no lack of talent.
Isaiah Johnson, Jimmy Jackson and Darius Richardson anchor a quality defensive line, Richardson moving from linebacker and into a starting role. The Eagles will be around 280 pounds across the front
Tyree Williams headlines the linebacking unit, a spot where Northside is thin in experience.
“We’ve got several linebacker bodies, so we’re going to change some things up on defense,” Kinsler said. “We’ll use some four-linebacker sets.”
And there’s only one returning starter, Rakwon Young, in the secondary, but there is some versatility in the ranks with players who can line up at corner or safety.
Justin Alonzo has the tough task to replace Isaac Rivera at place-kicker. Kinsler said Alonzo’s leg might not be quite as strong, but accuracy is similar.
Tradition and the system have always seemed to make the difference when Northside opens a season with question marks, and 2014 is no different. Not that Kinsler doesn’t counter confidence with some concern.
“As far as worrying about things, I worry when you have a group like this, when things are going good, it’s all good,” he said. “But that first time that something goes wrong in a game, how are they going to respond?”
The Eagles, of course, are 46-5 under Kinsler, who likes how the vacancies have increased intensity.
“The thing that’s so good is, we promote competition within the team,” he said. “Our lineup can change by week four, as we look at the youngsters and see what reps they’re getting.
“By week three or four, ‘This guys going to be able to step up.’ Guys know, ‘That guy behind me, he wants the job.’ ”
NORTHSIDE IN 2014
Head coach: Kevin Kinsler (46-5 in four seasons overall and at Northside).
2013 record: 10-2.
2014 region: GHSA 2-AAAAA.
Returning starters: 6 on offense; 5 on defense.
Players to watch: Willie Jordan (6-1, 225, Sr., RB); Brandon Sandifer (6-3, 330, Sr., OL); Isaiah Johnson (6-3, 292, Sr., DL); Tyree Williams (6-2, 195, Sr., LB).
Aug. 22 North Cobb
Sept. 5 at Evans
Sept. 12 Lakeside-Evans
Sept. 19 at Jones County
Sept. 26 Greenbrier
Oct. 3 at Richmond Academy
Oct. 17 vs. Warner Robins
Oct. 25 Grovetown
Oct. 31 at Cross Creek
Nov. 7 vs. Houston County