The Panthers will be trying to reload this season.
Greenbrier put together its first 11-0 regular season in history last season on the way to the 5A-West title, losing in the second round of the playoffs to state champion Batesville.
“We had great senior leadership that made that season a lot of fun,” said coach Randy Tribble.
Tribble and his staff are now trying to replace most of that team, returning only two starters on offense and four on defense.
“We’re a different crew; a work in progress,” he said. “Several of the returning players don’t have a lot of experience.”
Last year’s championship was the first outright for Greenbrier in more than 30 years.
Will Drewry, a 6-foot, 180-pound junior, takes over after a succession of high-powered quarterbacks (Neal Burcham and Seth Peters).
“He was a backup last year and improved immensely,” said Tribble. “We’ll tweak our offense a bit to suit his talents but he eventually could be right up there with what we’ve had.”
Gerrell Williamson, 5-10, 170) caught 42 passes for 408 yards last season and could become one of the top receivers in 5A with his understanding of the Panthers’ multiple offense. Jake Buchanan and Jordan Patterson will likely figure into the mix at receiver. A player to watch them is Dustin Tims. “He has more speed that we’re used to at outside receiver,” said Tribble.
Garrett Brewer appears ready to move into a starting role at running back. Austin Porter will rotate at back and receiver. Kevin Reynolds, a two-way player who is coming off shoulder surgery, caught 14 passes for 144 yards last year.
Tackle Sam Colbert (6-2, 265) is the only returning offensive lineman. “Physically, he’s ahead of a lot of kids his ages and he should be one of our best pass blockers,” Tribble said. He will be supported by Jordan Pearson and Jacob Cummings and center Caleb Corrigenda.
The Panthers should have ball-stalking ability at end in McKenzie Rogers and Cody Davis both of who moved from linebacker.
The linebacker core is led by Tyler Bush, who started the final five games of last season and made 47 tackles, recovered two fumbles and an interception. Tribble rates him as one of the steadiest players on defense. Ethan Edwards and Chase Weatherly will move into regular linebacker positions.
One of the strengths of the defense is the secondary. Brewer and Buchanan head the secondary at cornerback and Reynolds appears to be one of the top safeties in Class 5A.
“We have a little more experience on defense, so they may have to give the offense time to develop,” said Tribble. “I feel we’ll be pretty strong in the secondary.”
Can players who haven’t been in starting roles step up to maintain the Panthers’ recent winning tradition.
YOU MAY NOT KNOW
The Panthers can line up with twin receivers. Juniors Matthew and Michael Spainhour are actually twin brothers who are playing the same position.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Williamson, a transfer from Conway High, is one of the Panthers’ most athletic receivers and his experience will help. “He picks up on things in our system,” said Tribble. “He has the quickness to get out of trouble.”