Every high school coach likes having an experienced senior running back that can be counted on to carry the load for a football team.
As the 2011 season approaches, Briarwood Academy coach Jason Osborne has three of them.
Michael Kent, Ryan Pritchett and Russell Burdette all saw plenty of carries last season, and they're part of the senior class that is the first to play four seasons under Coach Osborne.
"It seems like we're getting better and better every year," said Pritchett, one of five seniors on this year's team.
"Every year having Coach (Osborne) everybody's getting stronger and everybody's getting bigger."
The running backs will get some help offensively from Taylor Coxwell, a junior who took over at quarterback near the end of last season.
Osborne recalled a game during Coxwell's freshman season when he was too scared to go in under center, but the speedy passer should be prepared after he went to a camp this summer where he told his coach he threw the ball about 300 times per day.
Coxwell threw three touchdown passes in the team's scrimmage against John Milledge Academy two weeks ago, and his speed allows him to make things happen even when a play breaks down.
Last year Osborne said the Bucs only threw about three to four passes per game, but Kent thinks the team will be going to the air more often this season.
"I would like to throw the ball more," Osborne said. "But I like to take the safer route."
Coxwell was the team's best receiver last season before he had to make the switch to quarterback, but Osborne is confident that's a role that senior Dalton Reese will have no problem filling.
The standout golfer didn't play football last season, and he stands to make an immediate impact for Briarwood this year. "He's an athlete and a half," said Kent, the team's leading rusher last season.
"He's got hands of gold. He can catch anything." While the team has plenty of experience at its skill positions, their success could depend a lot on the performance of a young offensive line.
Osborne said junior left guard Fifth Newton is the only returning starter on a line that averages about 189 pounds. The coach was pleased with their performance against a bigger line in the scrimmage against JMA, but the defense left him with quite a few concerns.
The Buccaneers gave up almost 50 points a game in their last four losses in 2010, and intense one-on-one hitting drills were the main focus for the team in practice the day after the disappointing performance in the scrimmage.
"Our defense was not very good," Osborne said of the game, where the teams didn't keep score. "A lot of missed tackles. We had a lot of breakdowns that we need to fix."
As always, the goal for the players and the coaches is a region championship, which would likely require the Bucs to avenge a 42-0 loss against GISA Class A runner-up Memorial Day.
Osborne knows that's a tall order, but with this year's senior class and the work ethic that brought 13 to 15 of the 18 players on the roster to every voluntary summer workout, he's not going to count his team out.