Tyronne Davis has searched for a way to protect his top offensive threat the last three seasons.
The fourth-year Waccamaw coach has watched as Jalen Simmons took the team by storm as a freshman, only to suffer torn anterior cruciate ligaments in both knees as a sophomore and junior. The injuries stalled major growth in the program, if only because Simmons has been such a focal point of this offense.
Now, Davis is trying something new.
Simmons, also an accomplished baseball player, is making the move from running back to quarterback in an effort to spur a team that has averaged fewer than 12 points per game in each of the last two seasons.
“He’s a player. By doing this, hopefully he won’t take all those direct hits he’s taken in the past,” Davis said. “He’s fought his way back after two injuries. We’ve got a handful of athletes, but if they go down, we have no one to replace him.
“Jalen gives us that threat back there. He opens up the offense a little more. We’re going to throw more this year than last year.”
With a new offensive coordinator – former Socastee assistant Shannon McAlister – the nowhere-to-go-but-up approach should be able to do just that. But the biggest reason may not be that of Simmons.
The Warriors will also return all five starters from their offensive line. Tackles Luke Odem and Matthew Holtzclaw, guards Jabbrell and Tra-Moe Drayton and center Tyler Davis average 250 pounds across the board, giving Tyrrone Davis his biggest group in the trenches in his time at the school.
They’ll be blocking for a slightly different scheme. Waccamaw will go to a spread-option game that utilizes wing movement in the backfield and Simmons’ ability to sling the ball to the outside.
Davis said the Warriors won’t be throwing 30-40 times a game, but after failed attempts at consistency during his first three seasons, it was time for something new.
It’s the same approach he’s taking defensively. That side of the ball allowed 31.6 points per game in 2012, despite two early season shutouts against smaller schools.
Waccamaw may still be prone to big plays, but it will also try to make a few more of its own.
The Warriors will bring back top returning tackler Donovan Syndab, as well as Deandre Richardson, who transferred in during the middle of last season. Those two and defensive backs Stephon Funnye, Rob Ferraro, Tyriq Grant and Darnell Dadd should add some speed to a defense striving to use fewer two-way players.
Together, they’ll be asked to correct one of the team’s major deficiencies.
“We haven’t been very aggressive at getting turnovers. We’re trying to turn that up a little bit,” Davis said. “We’ve spent a lot of time with our secondary and our linebackers. We were susceptible to the big plays. Those were things we have to improve on.”