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Hyler draws success from fine line

August 29, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. - Jefferson quarterback Brandon Hyler is never completely at ease when he lines up behind center.

The line is thin between concern and confidence for the second-year quarterback. And that line got just a bit thinner this season for Hyler, thanks to turnover on another thin line - the offensive line.

Jefferson will place as many as five underclassmen on the line this season after losing its core group of seniors from last year's Class AAA playoff team.

"You always get worried. I got worried when there were all seniors on the line," Hyler said. "But at the same time you have to have a lot of confidence."

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Throughout summer practice, Hyler has found the perfect balance between the two. The worries are beginning to taper and the poise is building, despite the notion that all five lineman positions could be filled by freshmen and sophomores.

"There could be four or five new guys, but they're coming along," Hyler said. "They're faster, they're quicker to get to their blocks and they're sticking with them. They've come a long way since the first day of practice."

Hyler has come a long way, as well. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior returns after a full year as Jefferson's starting quarterback. He will make his season debut tonight against Brooke (Va.).

"Last year I had no idea what I was doing. It was my first year," Hyler said. "Everybody has to improve. For me, it's the little things that I need to work on most - get the ball on the money, improve accuracy, make more completions and work on my footwork."

Hyler will try to improve on last season, during which he rushed for more yards than he passed for.

"We're going to have to increase our throwing," said Jefferson coach Richard Mills. "(Hyler) will have to make the correct reads because a lot of our offense revolves around reading the defense, finding out what they're doing and then going accordingly."

Hyler lost most of his veteran buffer zone, but his receiving arsenal remained mostly intact in seniors Keenan Delawder, Dewey McDonald and Casey Johnson - a trio that makes up only half of his passing options.

"I have a couple of favorites - the seniors," Hyler said. "I also have my tight ends - Cody (Rolin) and (Tyler) Chaney. Still, you can't pick just one receiver and stick to him. I have to mix up my throws."

Hyler will enjoy the same company on defense, as he is among four seniors returning to the secondary.

"They're all going to be going two ways," Mills said, "but I think they can handle it."

Make it three ways for Hyler, who could share kicking duties to help the Cougars on special teams.

"I think I'll do a pretty good job," Hyler said.




Xs & Os



Offense

Jefferson is built for flash - most of its talent and experience play in the skill positions.

Led by second-year starting quarterback Brandon Hyler, the Cougars have a plethora of weapons in tailback Dewey McDonald, slot back Casey Johnson, split end Keenan Delawder, flanker back Tyler Chaney and tight end Cody Rolin.

Jefferson will use predominantly single-back sets in their spread offense, but don't be surprised to see the Cougars, at times, lined up in the I-formation.

If there is a weakness to the Jefferson offense, it lies on the offensive line. The Cougars lost four starters and have little experience creating holes for McDonald or protecting Hyler in the pocket.

Defense

The Cougars have a similar dilemma on defense because of only one returning defensive lineman in their 4-3 scheme.

"What we really need to do is get experience and depth on the offensive and defensive lines," said coach Richard Mills. "We have so many new people in those positions - not new, per se, but experience-wise they're new - and that's going to tell whether we'll be successful this year."

Jefferson will also have two new linebackers as middle man Tim Oden is the only returner. He stands just 5-foot-6 but has a nonstop motor, Mills said.

The shining stars on offense - namely Hyler, McDonald, Johnson and Delawder - fill out the Cougars secondary, which dares opposing offenses to throw on it.

Special Teams

"If you know Jefferson football the last couple years, we haven't been real solid on our placement game."

Mills said it all, but he has optimism for the unit this season, especially with the emergence of Hyler and McDonald - two of the horses on offense and defense - booting the ball.

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