TUSCALOOSA ACADEMY: Johnson likes Knights’ work ethic
Thu. August 23, 2012 at 12:00 a.m. | By Andrew Carroll
Tuscaloosa Academy coach Robert Johnson, center, watches over an offensive line drill. The Knights open the 2012 season Friday night at Lee-Scott Academy. (Photo by Betsy Seymour)
TUSCALOOSA | In their first season with Robert Johnson as head coach, the Tuscaloosa Academy Knights beat top-ranked Bessemer Academy and qualified for the AISA Class AAA playoffs.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence,” said Johnson, who led the Knights to a 9-2 record. “The main reason we feel like we’re going to have a good season is the kids have put in the time and the effort in the weight room, in sprint training and speed training. I like our work ethic. We’re kind of playing to that high standard right now, but we’ve got to continue that.
“The second good thing is we are blessed with some athletes. We’ve got some good size and a lot of experience. Another thing that’s really positive for us is that the kids now know what the coaches, being the second year, expect out of them. We’re doing the same drills, the same offense, the same defense, so naturally there should be a lot of carryover and we ought to be able to execute better.”
The Knights will operate out of a wing-T offense. Senior Jonathan Plott enters his third season as a starting quarterback with Austin Menard, a starting defensive back, as his backup.
“Jonathan has improved in a lot of areas,” Johnson said. “Since we do run fairly well and have been successful with that, it opens up the play-action pass game. We want to be more physical, though, on offense. That’s really our main goal.”
Fullback Jaevon Walton is in line to get most of the carries. He’ll be joined in the backfield by halfback Clay Thomas and wingbacks Jonathan Teesdale and Torrence Brown. Johnson said Brown could play at tight end, split end and fullback.
“We really want to get him the ball in a lot of different ways,” Johnson said.
Johnson said tackle Terrell Bush will anchor the offensive line. Other candidates to start are JD Diaz, Thomas Hahn and Max Haley. Pride Snow, Taylor White and Dillon Anderson have experience at tight end.
Bush and Hahn are potential starters on the defensive line, with Kuwan Whitfield, Snow, Kyle Andrews and Diaz. Walton, Brown and Anderson are linebackers. Returning players in the secondary are Carter Standeffer, Menard, Thomas and Teesdale.
“If you’re strong up front, it allows your linebackers to play free,” Johnson said.
“It allows your defensive backs to know that they don’t have to cover as long. You can be a little more aggressive in what you’re doing. Fortunately, we’ve got a pretty good defensive line, and that’s attributable to John Copeland, who’s coaching those guys.”
Tuscaloosa Academy’s schedule lists four teams ranked in the preseason AISA poll. The Knights play No. 9 Lee-Scott Academy on Aug. 24, No. 10 Sumter Academy on Sept. 28, No. 2 Bessemer Academy on Oct. 4 and No. 3 Glenwood on Oct. 12.
“Our schedule is vastly more difficult,” Johnson said. “We might actually be better but our record might not reflect that. If we can stay healthy and focused, then we ought to have a good opportunity to compete in any game we play in.”
School: Tuscaloosa Academy
Classification: AISA Class AAA, Region 1
2011 record: 9-2
2011 playoffs: 0-1
Head coach: Robert Johnson (second year at Tuscaloosa Academy)
Assistant coaches: John Copeland, defensive coordinator; Nick Archer, offensive line/defensive line; William McLeod, offensive line/defensive line; Ethan McBride, defensive backs/wide receivers; Paul Diaz, linebackers; William Johnson, junior varsity; Chad Payne, trainer; Elizabeth Johnson, administrative assistant
Returning starters: 19
Keep an eye on: OT/DE Terrell Bush (6-3, 295, Jr.), FB/LB Jaevon Walton (5-11, 225, Jr.), TE/SE/RB/LB Torrence Brown (6-4, 215, Jr.)
Key games: Aug. 24 at Lee-Scott Academy; Oct. 4 Bessemer Academy; Oct. 12 at Glenwood School
Aug. 24 at Lee-Scott Academy*
Aug. 31 Lyman Ward Military Acad.*
Sept. 7 at Macon-East Academy*
Sept. 14 Morgan Academy
Sept. 21 at Restoration Academy
Sept. 28 at Sumter Academy
Oct. 4 Bessemer Academy*
Oct. 12 at Glenwood School*
Oct. 19 Kingwood Christian*
Oct. 25 Monroe Academy
* Denotes region game