Editor’s Note: This is the second in a six-part series which will focus on the top players to watch for each Elmore County football team leading up to the season.
It is never easy to replace production on the football field but with the class that graduated from Tallassee in 2019, the Tigers are taking it to a whole new level. The team loses its leading passer, its three leading rushers, its two leading tacklers and an all-state kicker.
The Tigers have a lot of holes to fill but it’s hard to tell from the confidence shown by the team during the summer workouts. Tallassee coach Mike Battles knows he has a young team but he also knows better than anyone the amount of talent his young group has.
While all the eyes will be on some of the newcomers for the Tigers, the key to success will be with how well the limited returning players perform when they are needed. And it starts with the senior leader who has been more reliable than anyone else entering 2019.
During last week’s organized team activities (OTAs) at Tallassee, Battles said he was not too worried about seeing Griffin get extra work back on the football field because the coaching staff knows what he is capable of once August rolls around. Of the players who return, Griffin was the team’s top passer, rusher, receiver, tackler and scorer in 2018.
Griffin finished with 503 yards of offense and five total touchdowns last season but his bigger impact may be on the defensive side of the ball. Over the last two seasons, Griffin started at outside linebacker and totaled 125 tackles including 15 for a loss and three sacks.
The Tigers have some young talent on the field but most teams will likely focus on limiting Griffin on both ends of the field until someone else proves they can cause a problem. It is clear he will be relied on to do some heavy lifting while the rest of his younger teammates start getting more comfortable with their roles.
While the quarterback situation is still up in the air, Justiss brings a good alternate to Griffin in the passing game. With Griffin often lining up on the inside, it can open up space on the outside and on deep passes for Justiss and other receivers.
Justiss recorded multiple receptions in six games last season and finished with 211 receiving yards. He capped off the season with his best game of his career which included a 52-yard touchdown catch against Elmore County.
The Tigers may not focus much on the passing game again this season but Justiss and Griffin both leave that option open so the defense cannot sit back and play the run. No matter who gets the nod at quarterback, expect Justiss to have an expanded role as the top true receiver for Tallassee in 2019.
Reed could also have an effect on the passing game for the Tiger offense but his biggest impact will come as the leader of an experienced secondary. He is expected to play a majority of every game, starting at receiver and safety for Tallassee in 2019.
During his junior season, Reed finished with 18 total tackles and one interception for the Tigers. The secondary was often considered a weak spot for Tallassee last season but all of the starters return and Battles expects to see a lot of improvement against opposing passing attacks this year.
Jaylin Daniels, Zavion Carr, Marciano Smith
The young talent can be found across the board for Tallassee but this trio of sophomore running backs will make an immediate impact on the Tigers’ offense this season. Carr and Daniels both got carries last year but combined for only 45 total yards on 13 touches.
Both have shown big improvements during the summer and they should be aided by Smith at fullback. Smith showed off abilities as both a lead blocker and a ball carrier during the spring game, including a 40-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion.