Coach: Michael Calloway (1st year)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 4/4/0
Remember these names: Brandon Walters (Jr., 6-8, 260) already is a definite Division I college prospect as an offensive lineman, and wide receiver JauMichael Hardy (Sr., 6-3, 190) and running backs LaWayne Ruffin (Jr., 5-9, 170) and Rayshawn Moore (Sr., 5-10, 180) are other important members of the Howard offense. Big linebacker Cadarius Harrison (Sr., 6-1, 244) will be a leader on defense.
Will be a memorable year if: Calloway and his staff, which includes his high school coach, Herman Coulter, get the Tigers into the playoffs and beyond their first postseason game. There isn't a whole lot of depth, especially in the lines, and Walters and his cohorts will have to survive double duty.
Aug. 19 Franklin County
Sept. 2 Hixson*
Sept. 9 Boyd-Buchanan
Sept. 16 Central*
Sept. 30 at Brainerd*
Oct. 7 East Ridge*
Oct. 14 at Red Bank*
Oct. 21 at Tyner*
Oct. 28 at East Hamilton*
* District 6-AA game
The late Chubby James was a local coaching legend, giving his heart and soul to the Hustlin' Tigers and turning out one good football team after another. In his next to last season, one that came in the early days of integration, James' 1967 team left future sets of Tigers with a legacy that remains intact more than 40 years later.
That team had the school's last undefeated season, going 10-0 with four shutouts and edging Nashville Pearl 14-13 in the Strawberry Bowl. Along the way, the Tigers beat Brainerd, Central, East Ridge, Notre Dame and City. Before the bowl game, the closest they came to losing was in a 12-7 win over City. They totaled 130 points in back-to-back wins over Knoxville Austin and Clarksville Burt, 65-0 and 65-7.
Tevan Jackson is making a major adjustment. The Howard senior is going from 2010 hunter to 2011 hunted, transitioning from a punishing linebacker to promising quarterback.
"It's a big difference, but I know what to expect," he said.
To that end he has shown a knack for reading defenses, and he already has earned the respect of his teammates and first-year head coach Michael Calloway.
"The guys trust him so I trust him," Calloway said. "I think he'll do well. He really wants to run the offense. He has a good memory; he runs well; he can throw the deep ball and the out routes well. He'll definitely create a new line of scrimmage."
He was the first to receive Calloway's playbook, and he accepted it with a sense of pride.
"I study it every day. I know what I'm supposed to do and what everybody else is supposed to do," Jackson said.
Beyond that, he has a confident air and a deep sense of pride in playing for the Hustlin' Tigers. He's a cousin of former Howard standout Terdell Sands, who played several years in the NFL.
"The best thing about playing at Howard is the community," Jackson said. "They take pride in what we do, and all of us have family that went to Howard.
"My biggest concern is running the offense and running it right, but I can run and throw. I think I'll do fine," he said. "I think we'll do pretty well. We know that. We have a pretty good quarterback, good running backs and receivers and a good offensive line. But it's a matter of sticking together. We can win [District 6-AA]."
Jackson sees the Tigers sticking together with the likes of wideout JaMichael Hardy, running backs RayShawn Moore and LaWayne Ruefin and offensive linemen Ralph James and Brandon Walters, a 6-foot-6, 277-pound junior Calloway believes will be an NCAA Division I prospect.
Many of them recall vividly the 2009 season when the Tigers were picked among the 6-AA favorites. They finished 2-8, the only season they failed to make the playoffs during Alvin Tarver's tenure as head coach. Three of the losses were by one or two points.
"We had a good team. I guess I learned then that isn't about one person but the whole team," Jackson said.
Many of this year's Tigers were on that team, a Class 3A group that rebounded to go 8-3 and finish as runner-up in a district loaded with Class 4A teams.
They'd like to improve on the 2010 showing and proved it throughout the summer.
"A lot of us -- 35 to 40 -- were at school working out Monday through Thursday, and some of us would come over on Saturday and Sunday and run the stadium steps," Jackson said. "I really believe everybody is dedicated, especially after seeing them working every day out in the heat."
Jackson didn't have a huge amount of spare time. He had to plan his day around a daily lunch shift at the Subway on Shallowford Road. But that, too, he has treated as a positive experience.
"Yeah, it's busy then, but I haven't gotten sick of Subway food. It keeps me healthy," he said. "I've learned to eat a lot of salads and turkey. It's better for you than a lot of the grease that comes with a lot of fast foods."