HARROGATE, Tenn. — In the eleven years since the school came into existence, offensive football at Cumberland Gap has pretty well be synonymous with the spread formation. The school has produced it’s share of standout quarterbacks in a scheme designed to get the ball out quickly to four wide receivers and take advantage of inside running lanes.
That scheme is going to change this season under the direction of Corey Russell, the first and greatest in that line of signal callers.
With little experience among this year’s group of receivers and a sophomore taking over at quarterback, the Panthers will be moving to more of a power game to take advantage of two physical senior backs and a big offensive line.
“We’re moving to more of a pro-style offense lined up a lot in strong I and weak I formations,” said Russell, who is entering his second season at the team’s head coach. “It’s not a total change but it is a change. We’ll be moving some receivers around, playing some double-tight sets. It won’t be as much of a spread look but we’ll still have a lot of spread philosophy in it.”
Senior Brandon Bailey will be the tailback, after finishing last season as the starting running back. Bailey ran for 516 yards on 102 carries in a system where quarterback Dakota Brock led the the team in carries and rushing yards.
Senior Devon Helton, who has been Cumberland Gap’s kicker and punter for the last three years and also played linebacker last season, is moving to fullback.
Sophomore Christian Crowder will be starting at tight end with sophomore Ethan Ellison as the new starting quarterback.
There are several players competing for the starting receiver spots and Russell said that as a group they’ve worked hard.
“They are lacking in experience but they’ve worked their tails off in the off season, getting stronger and getting faster. It’s just a matter of getting in their reps, coming to practice every day and getting better,” he said.
The team still figures to be balanced on offense and they were effective lining up with two backs in the I formation even during 7-on-7 passing scrimmages last week. That showed there will still be options in the passing game that opposing teams will have to respect while defending the ground game that will now feature a lead blocker and the option of using some misdirection plays along the line of scrimmage.
“We just want to be able to better utilize some of the strength that we have this year,” Russell said.
Cumberland Gap opens the season at home against Campbell County on Aug. 22.