No one will be more excited than Blinn College interim head football coach Ryan Mahon when the Buccaneers begin the 2016 season.
After 13 years as an assistant coach at Tyler Junior College and Hutchinson Community College, this marks Mahon's first chance as a head coach. He has coached on the offensive side of the ball for most of his career, but said it is Blinn's defense that will stand out early on for the Buccaneers.
"In all of my years of coaching offense, I haven't faced a defense quite like ours," Mahon said. "The secondary is a savvy group of players who take pride in not allowing the offense to complete passes."
The defense has the potential to shut down teams from the Southwest Junior College Football Conference while Mahon will be calling plays for an offense that will implement a fast-paced scheme to get the ball into the hands of its playmakers.
The Buccaneers have missed out on postseason play for the last two seasons and Mahon is confident that Blinn can get back to postseason play being the norm.
"If this team comes together then we have a chance to be really good," Mahon said. "The returning players have done a great job of welcoming in the new players and making it feel like family around here."
The defensive side of the ball will be anchored by 6-foot-6, 320-pound Javier Edwards (Houston) on the defensive line. A University of Florida verbal commit, Edwards had 29 tackles last year and will be a load for any offensive line. Jhavonte Dean (Florida City, Fla.) is a speedy cornerback that can shut down the opponent's best receiver. Dean, who is verbally committed to the University of Alabama, broke up 10 passes a year ago and accumulated 20 tackles.
The Buccaneers have a transfer player at the linebacker position who will have an impact in 2016 in Mike Freeze (Graham). Freeze, who transferred from Texas Christian University, should be a key defensive cog all season. Cornerback Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City), a transfer from Alabama, should be tough to complete a pass against.
Evan Wick (Hallettsville) will also be a strength on the defensive line. Thomas Hutchings (Cedar Park), who played as a running back last year, and Norman Reeves (Schertz) will help out at linebacker. Ben Sutton (League City), Corrion Ballard (Houston), Jai Edwards (Texas City) and Julius Perkins (Houston) will all be part of the impressive defensive secondary that will try to shut down passing attacks from teams in the SWJCFC.
On the offensive side of the ball, Blinn will have experience coming back at quarterback as Caleb Hill (Brenham) passed for 814 yards and eight touchdowns. Hill will have competition at the quarterback position with University of California, Los Angeles transfer Aaron Sharp (Houston) and incoming freshman Weston Elliott (Midland) and Chase Hildreth (League City) all battling for snaps.
The Buccaneers will have a fast-paced offense, but Blinn will also rely heavily on the running game. D'Anthony Hopkins (Cuero) returns for his sophomore season after rushing for 261 yards and four touchdowns in four games. Kentory Matthews (Virginia Beach, Va.) is a speedy back coming off a knee injury that shortened his season last year. Sophomore Chris Hutchings (Cedar Park) and incoming freshman Quantonio Williams (New Orleans, La.) will provide depth in the backfield.
Blinn will have a talented bunch of receivers starting with Timon Nolan, who switched from quarterback last year to wide receiver. Taylor Givens (Stafford), Earnest Patterson Jr. (Brenham), Tre'Veon Hamilton (Humble) and Darrell Hubbard (Houston) all caught balls last year and are returning to add experience. Corey Henderson (Shreveport, La.), who originally signed with the University of Tennessee, and Brandon Hower (League City) are first-year players that will look to get open for passes.
Tight end Devonaire Clarington (Miami, Fla.) stands 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds originally signed with University of Texas and sophomore Johnathan Thomas (Montgomery) will also catch passes at the tight end position.
"Devonaire is not just a tight end because he is so athletic that he could play at any position," Mahon said.
The offensive line doesn't have a lot of experience but will be talented. Hanner Shipley (Marble Falls), Robert Kirkpatrick (Uvalde), Tre Newton (Houston), Larry Robinson (Metairie, La.), Torey Harris (Houston), William Gilchrist (Deer Park) and Cody Hooks (Willis) will all help the offense go on the offensive front.
Blinn finished with a 5-4 record in 2015.
"The goal is to win as many games as possible and develop these kids," Mahon said. "If we stay healthy, then we have a chance to have a very good season."
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 34 NJCAA national championships since 1987. For more information, visit www.buccaneersports.com.
About Blinn College
With an enrollment of 19,370 students, Blinn ranks among the nation's leaders in transferring students to leading four-year universities and has received national recognition for affordable educational excellence. For more information, visit www.blinn.edu.