The Mustangs ended the 2012 season on a three-game winning streak to finish 4-6, and they’re expecting to be even more polished with the triple-option offense Andy Scott installed in his first season as coach.
It’s a far cry for the Mustangs, who won just one game in the two seasons before Scott’s arrival.
After Kennesaw Mountain concluded spring practice last Friday, Scott said the progression in his triple-option offense and 3-3-5 defense, compared to when he first started, has been like “night and day.”
The Mustangs will still have to find their share of replacements — five starters were lost on offense, seven on defense — but they have players coming up who have are already versed in what Scott wants to do.
“We were fortunate to play a ton of kids last year,” Scott said. “Much of the guys that will be filling in slots played last year, even if they weren’t called starters.”
Most of Kennesaw Mountain’s offensive returners are skilled players.
Quarterback Nigel Hayes is one of them and is expecting to be the cornerstone of the Mustangs’ offense once again after taking starting duties from the departed Dallin Finley, who played full-time in the secondary last fall.
Hayes had a productive spring after he finished with 68 carries for 253 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. He also passed for 317 yards and two touchdowns.
Kennesaw Mountain’s leading rusher and leading receiver are also back. Fullback Jamari Carter, who led the team with 565 yards on 85 carries and five touchdowns, had a solid spring, as did Dennis Bell, who totaled 268 yards and three touchdowns on just five catches.
“We’re starting to understand how to read the option and get the ball into the perimeter,” Scott said. “In the true option, we need to take advantage of all the necessary options. Having a year under our belt with the ninth-grade and JV programs growing, we’ve gained the ability to read it, pitch it and keep it when we need it.”
The Mustangs are also returning three of their five offensive linemen — tackle Daniel Oyola, center David White and guard Donald Marke — which should also help them progress to the next step.
Ryan Peterson and Garland Woodruff will anchor a linebacking staff that’s projected to be Kennesaw Mountain’s strong suit. The Mustangs’ biggest issue will be finding four new members of the secondary to play alongside returning safety Bryan Bell.
But that doesn’t seem to faze Scott too much.
“We lost seniors on defense, but at the same time, the kids coming in are allowing us to be better than we were last year,” Scott said. “They understand what we’re trying to do.”