James Clemens Football 2022 Has High Expectations
MADISON- It’s hard to imagine the James Clemens football team could be much better than the squad of 2021 which went undefeated during the regular season for the first time in school history, but that’s not the feeling among the program, especially head coach Chad McGehee.
“I feel like we’re so much farther ahead than where we were last year as we’ve had a full off-season and coaches that have been here,” said McGehee, who added, “Not just from the football standpoint, but the entire culture in this area.”
McGehee steps into his position for the second season after arriving at James Clemens a year ago with very little time before the season got underway. Despite the lack of quality of time to get the program into his mindset, the Jets went 10-0 and took the Region 4 championship before unexpectedly losing in the opening round of the Class 7A playoffs. The loss was a bitter experience to swallow, but McGehee and the players have not dwelt on the fact of the season-ending loss, but have pushed to the positive aspects for the upcoming campaign.
“The past success does not determine future success,” added McGehee.
The prosperity for the Jets will start at quarterback, and if last year’s conquest of scoring 40 points per game was any indication, all will be good for James Clemens in 2022. Gio Lopez (QB, 6-1, 210, Sr.), a University of South Alabama commit, had a huge season a year ago passing for 2,387 yards and 22 touchdowns along with seven additional scores and 380 yards rushing. He was a first team All-State selection and is a legit dual threat quarterback. “I expect big things from him again this season as he extends plays,” said McGehee. “He’s one of the best I’ve had in my coaching career.”
A second team All-State choice in 2021 at wide receiver, Keymari Pittman (WR, 5-5, 145, Sr.), will be the main weapon Lopez will look for as Pittman has explosive talents and great ball skills. Ty Doughty (WR, 5-9, 165, So.) will see lots of action after being pulled up to varsity last year as a freshman. J.T. Williams (WR, 5-6, 173, Sr.) will also be part of the mix of receivers who add a multitude of play making possibilities for the Jets. Another senior, Logan Eggart (WR, 6-6, 190, Sr.), a basketball player for the Jets, will bring exceptional talent and experience to the corps of wide receivers. Running backs will include Gabe Ballard (RB, 5-10, 185, Sr.), who split playing time with All-State runner Dante Snodgrass who graduated last year, and D.J. Williams (RB, 5-6, 170, Jr.), who is the younger brother of J.T. Williams, looks to be very strong at his position.
The offensive line will include returning starter Grant Gage (OL, 6-5, 290, Sr.) who is regarded as one of the best in Class 7A as he possesses great foot work, has a good attitude and is very bright. He also pitches for the Jets’ baseball team. Overall, McGehee feels the OL has good size and strength, but need some experience early in the season to really excel. The group of linemen include center Tim “T-Bone” Coleman (C, 5-10, 240, So.), Micah Douglas (OL, 6-1, 260, So.), Naim Muhammad (OL, 6-1, 220, Sr.) and Hunter Headley (OL, 6-3, 244, Jr.).
Allowing just 21 points a game last season, the Jets have enough experience to continue to build a solid squad which can play a smash-mouth style on its opponents. Leading the way is All-State defensive back Jamal Mayers (DB, 5-10, 170 Sr.) who is rated as the best defensive back in the area and one of the tops in the state. He played solid safety last season but will most likely play corner this season, according to McGehee, who said, “He’s a hybrid player who can play many positions and we will use him in that capacity.”
The remainder of the backfield is some concern for the coaching staff, but looks to be coming on strong come game time. Those players include Brody Stinson (DB, 5-10, 165, Jr.), who has looked good in pre-season workouts and carries lots of intelligence into the game, and Marc Woods (DB, 6-3, 170, Jr.) who is new to the team but comes in as long as he has great range on the field.
Linebackers for the Jets can play to an elite level. Those include Stephen Ezell (LB, 5-10, 192, Sr.), who has worked extremely hard during the off-season to get to the point he can lead the position for the Jets, Chris Gang (Sr.) who will also slip into the defensive end spot as he can move and cover the field from both positions, Jaylon Ruffin (LB, 5-11, 185, Jr.), Camden Wells (LB, 5-5, 150, Sr.), Cameron Berry (LB, 5-9, 167, So.) Kaiden Samad (LB, 5-9, 193, Sr.) and Jacob Durham (LB, 5-8, 152, Sr.), who is not big in stature, but plays big every snap. The defensive line will see several make their way to the line and contribute, and will include Andrew Millar (DL, 5-11, 250, Sr.), Nate Jennings (DL, 6-3, 236, Jr.) and Jaylen Brown (DL, 6-6, 235, Jr.). “All of these guys are very athletic and run like linebackers,” added McGehee.
Special teams play will be led by a trio of returners as Pittman, Doughty and Mayers will share the duties of grabbing the ball and head up field as quickly as possible, especially with Pittman’s team leading speed of 4.5 in the 40. The remainder of the special teams area of play could be a concern for the Jets as the squad lost both the starting place kicker and punter from a season ago.
Senior Luke Boseck (K/P, Sr.) comes to the Jets as a first-year player with a splended soccer background. He will most likely handle both place kicking and punting duties with what McGehee describe as having a very strong leg. Kevin Peet (K, 5-7, 160, Jr.) and Anthony Ortiz (K, 5-7, 147, So.) will also try and make a move to receive playing time as kickers.
The Jets have four new coaches among the staff under McGehee after losing two coaches from last year’s staff who went on to accepting head coaching positions at other schools. The program will have a new offensive coordinator as Logan Colafransesco comes on board.
“I’m really excited about this team as I feel we’re a complete team and I like where we are headed into our schedule, which is very tough at first,” said McGehee, as the first two opening games are against tough Class 6A powers Gardendale and Mt. Brook. The showdown with crosstown rival Bob Jones is set for Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2, in game three of the season.