BAYLOR RED RAIDERS
Coach: Phil Massey (33-23 here; 95-59 overall)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 9/8/3
Remember these names: The staff has revamped the offensive philosophy and will depend more on the running backs than last year when Jacob Huesman was at quarterback. That spot has been filled by Matthew Oellerich (Sr., 5-11, 190), who served for two years as Huesman’s backup after starting part of his freshman year. Offensive tackle Barrett Gouger (Sr., 6-5, 280), a Vanderbilt commitment, will be a third-year starter and George Porter (Soph., 5-8, 165) will lead a quartet of running backs.
Will be a memorable year if: The Red Raiders win the school’s first state championship since 1973. With 17 starters returning, anything short of a second trip to the state final likely will be a disappointment. Baylor fell short last year on a controversial, last-second touchdown pass by Ensworth.
Aug. 19 at Soddy-Daisy
Aug. 26 at Bradley Central
Sept. 2 at Father Ryan*
Sept. 9 at Montgomery Bell*
Sept. 16 Ensworth*
Sept. 23 McCallie*
Sept. 30 at Brentwood Academy*
Oct. 14 Columbia Central
Oct. 21 Pope John Paul II*
Oct. 28 Battle Ground Academy*
* Division II-AA game
Legendary coach Red Etter had two undefeated seasons during a career that ended with 324 wins — at Central in 1962 and at Baylor in 1973, the latter resulting in state and national championships. The Red Raiders’ closest game in ’73 was the state final, 6-0 over Memphis Hamilton, and the touchdown was scored by Tommy Tucker, filling in for injured Andy Rutledge.
“The first thing that comes to mind is that finals game,” said Gene Etter, Red’s son and defensive coordinator. “I took pride in the fact that we didn’t give up any points and we held them four straight downs down around our 12-yard line.”
Among notable players on that team were quarterback Bobby Worthington, offensive lineman Clay Crumbliss, defensive end Cal Jumper, running back Clay Gibson and defensive back Scott Price.
“I remember [in the semifinals] Scott scored a touchdown offensively and intercepted a pass,” Gene Etter said. “That game is what convinced Ken Donahue, who was defensive coordinator at Alabama at the time, that Scott could be a college player.”
Hamilton ran a wishbone offense, and Red Etter switched to that for the next several seasons.
Baylor returns most of the starters who carried the Red Raiders to the Division II-AA state final a year ago, but the impact guy — quarterback Jacob Huesman — has taken his skills to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
There is a plan in place, though, to replace Huesman's combined 3,000 yards of offense. The Red Raiders have turned over the passing game to Matthew Oellerich, a freshman starter at quarterback who served his sophomore and junior seasons as a backup following Huesman's arrival. Oellerich hasn't sat idly, though, contributing the past two seasons at wide receiver and in the secondary.
Replacing Huesman's 1,900 rushing yards will fall to the quartet of sophomore George Porter and juniors Connor Davidson, Houston Clements and Mike Davis.
"Jacob was our primary ball carrier, so obviously these guys' numbers will increase," Baylor coach Phil Massey said. "Our run/pass ratio will remain about the same, but obviously these guys will play a bigger role. We have a veteran line and that will certainly help. We won't be dependent on one guy."
The idea heading into the season is to rotate the foursome, and the coach plans to use more two-back sets.
"They obviously won't all be in the backfield at the same time," he said. "They'll alternate series. Each has made great contributions in practice, and each deserves playing time. We want to keep them fresh."
Porter was the 2010 Red Raiders' second-leading rusher with 893 yards and eight touchdowns, and Davidson emerged in the title-game loss to Ensworth with a team-high 74 rushing yards. Davis, who missed almost all of last season with a high ankle sprain, and Clements, a transfer from McCallie who sat out last year, are the additions.
They aren't worried, though, about the backfield getting crowded or standing on the sidelines while others are getting carries.
"A rotation? It feels good to me as long as we're getting the W's," Clements said.
"There were times late in games last year when I was tired and got to that suck-it-up time," Porter added. "Everybody may get 10 carries and might want more, but at the same time you ask yourself what's best for the team. We're competing and we're all looking for stats, but at the end of the day we're a team. If one of the other guys scores, we all score and I'm happy. We're up by one [touchdown], the most important stat is that W."
Davis has shown a knack for making people miss. Clements is described as shifty and hard-nosed with some speed. Davidson has shown a remarkable ability for reading the defense and finding the hole, and Porter likely is the fastest in the bunch.
"This team's strength, though, is the offensive line," Porter said. "You could be the fastest back or the most explosive back -- you could be Barry Sanders -- but no running back can do anything without the hogs up front."
Just how much the team will miss Huesman's contributions remains to be seen, but Massey has been in a similar situation. As a coach at Haywood County in 1994 he was looking to replace a Mr. Football finalist who happened to be a 2,000-yard rusher. That team reached the state championship game.
"We had a number of kids step up, especially in pressure situations. They were more of a unit. That's our goal this year," he said. "I think these guys want to see the team succeed. I think each would love to have most of the carries, but they realize that each is one part of the puzzle we are putting together for us to be successful."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...