Wildcats excited after year of unrest
by Carlton D. White
May 31, 2014 04:00 AM | 3073 views | 2 2 comments | 24 24 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After taking over for Elijah Staley in the middle of the season, the starting spot at quarterback appears to be Ryles Kirkland’s to lose as Wheeler prepares for 2014.
<BR>Special photo by Cecil Copeland
After taking over for Elijah Staley in the middle of the season, the starting spot at quarterback appears to be Ryles Kirkland’s to lose as Wheeler prepares for 2014.
Special photo by Cecil Copeland
Wheeler had high hopes for the 2013 season after qualifying for the state playoffs the year before.

It looked promising following back-to-back victories to begin the season, but the midseason dismissal of quarterback Elijah Staley derailed the Wildcats’ hopes.

However, the new quarterback, Ryles Kirkland, got the opportunity to prove himself and help Wheeler get back on track.

After a few tough losses, he and the rest of the Wildcats showed they could be competitive in the back half of the season, losing four of their final five games by a touchdown or less.

The enthusiasm from last year’s finish spilled over into spring practice, giving coach Mike Collins a good feeling about his team entering the summer.

“I came out of our spring practices excited about our progress,” he said. “The offseason workouts helped and they’ll continue to be a benefit for us moving forward.

“Our offensive line definitely got better, so we’re pleased with that, and the wide receiver corps showed what it could do, so I’m happy. I came out of there very optimistic, although knowing that there’s always more things to improve upon.”

The Wheeler offensive line will be anchored by rising juniors Chris Hall, Saage Lee, Felipe Silva and Val Martin, all of whom played significant minutes last season.

“Offensive line is definitely one of the areas we’re happy about,” Collins said. “These guys were in the trenches a lot last year, so they’re comfortable with doing things, and they should only get better with the extra work.”

Gabe Magerkurth will join Kirkland on the quarterback depth chart.

Harland Howell, a third-year varsity starter, will anchor the receiving unit, while Jacobi Green, a fourth-year starter, is expected to flourish at running back and wide receiver.

“We’re going to lean on Harland and Jacobi for leadership, and their experience over the past couple of years will be a great asset to the younger guys,” Collins said.

While there’s plenty of optimism on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is still a work in progress.

“We knew we wouldn’t have that big-name talent on defense, like we’ve had in the past, but these guys are coachable, and they’re willing to learn,” Collins said. “They want to get to the football, and they’re excited to play defense. We need to get better at tackling, though, which is something we’re going to teach all summer long and have them ready for the season.”

The defensive line concerns Collins because the unit is “undersized a little,” he said, but the linebacking unit is strong with returning starter David Brashear.

Defensive back Elijah Brown should pace the secondary with Daz Brewer.

“We have five guys returning on offense and three on defense,” Collins said, “so we have a lot of holes to fill. The competition during the spring went well, and I think the kids enjoyed having pads on again.

“We’re looking forward to next season and seeing what we can do.”
Comments-icon Post a Comment
wheeler Parent
June 05, 2014
George Wilson you are at it again.. stop dogging a 17 year old kid! Its a quite a few parents that have problems with Coach Collins.. ..even you were calling for his head 2 years ago..and by the way, NOBODY LIKES YOU.. you should transfer.. That kid got kicked off the team for 1 arguement with the coach.. never got in trouble with Coach Collins, and you wanna go around dogging him out.. That was the worst mistake Coach Collins could have made.. a lot of kids didnt get scholarships because of that move.. Grow up George
June 01, 2014
We are excited about a new season this fall for the Wildcats. No more of the Clown Crew! What a boat anchor they were for our program. Now Mississippi State gets to deal with them.

Coach Collins had the sympathy of the TEAM players and their families. We support him and his staff that truly care for the kids. Go Wildcats!
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides