BOONEVILLE — A mixture of youth and experience will blend together at Northeast Mississippi Community College during the 63rd all-time football campaign in school history.
A total of 39 newcomers between transfers and true freshmen are set to make their debuts in a black-and-gold uniform during the fall of 2022. However, the Tigers also boast a talented core of sophomores at vital positions across the field.
That includes nine players that are utilizing an extra season of eligibility due to the worldwide coronavirus outbreak. They are Gary Banks II, Deonta Barnes, Javian Gipson-Holmes, Willie Latham III, Triston Newson, Tam Patterson, Brantley Prescott, Carter Putt and Kris Sides.
They are the last group that will benefit from legislation in regards to pandemic relief. The entire 2020-21 academic year did not count towards participation for any student-athlete in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
Putt, a Heritage Academy product, headlines Northeast’s third-year standouts after starting six games at quarterback one season ago. He is trying to become the first Tiger to throw for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive campaigns since at least 2004.
Putt has completed 54 percent of his pass attempts at Northeast and has only committed one turnover over his last four appearances. Putt has earned the trust of Greg Davis, who is beginning his eighth year as the Tigers’ head coach.
“Carter does a really great job of managing the offense,” he said. “He can full-field read, so it makes a huge difference when you’re talking about being able to adjust off coverages and blitzes. His awareness is off the charts.”
Cameron Dill (West Point), who participated in the 2021 Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Class 4A-6A All-Star Game, and John Daniel Deaton (Booneville) are Putt’s primary backups.
Running back may be one of Northeast’s deepest spots on the depth chart with three returners, including Goldman Butler (Biggersville), Banks, II (Olive Branch) and Patterson (Corinth).
Butler is a returning all-conference performer that checked in at tight end from time-to-time. He accounted for four touchdowns between rushing and receiving during his inaugural season with the Tigers.
Banks and Patterson have combined for 885 yards on the ground during their careers at Northeast. Add Jayden Robinson (Nashville, Tenn.), who was a Tennessee Football Coaches Association (TnFCA) Class 4A All-State selection as a senior, into the fray and the Tigers have four top-notch runners.
“It’s probably the best we’ve ever been at running back,” said Davis. “We’ve got two bruiser backs with Gary and Goldman and two guys that are more slasher backs, so to speak, with Tam and Jayden. It’s been exciting to see those four work.”
Northeast brings back just two wideouts that caught at least one pass last year in Kylan Garrett (Independence) and Jay Wortham (Oxford). Garrett topped the Tigers as a freshman with 410 receiving yards and finished tied for second with 22 catches.
Among the batch of fresh faces that have joined Northeast’s receiving corps are KT Hicks (Petal), Tykwon Wade (Madison), Tyrell Randall (Ocala, Fla.) and Mitchell Woodard (Columbus).
“We feel like the ability of our receivers is going to be as good as it’s been in a long time,” Davis said. “I don’t think that there’s any one guy that’s just a ball hog. They give a lot of great effort out there.”
The Tigers have three starters back who are charged with protecting the skill positions as offensive linemen. Jaquan Toney (Huntsville, Ala.) was an all-conference tackle last autumn while Billy Johnson (Booneville) stands tall at one of the two guards.
Prescott (Columbus) is moving from a guard slot to center. Jacob Brannon (Winona), Bryce Harley (Horn Lake), D.J. King (Byhalia), Ben Mauney (Booneville) and RJ Whitehead (Horn Lake) are all sophomores as well who will rotate along the line for Northeast.
“We worked extremely hard in the offseason from January all the way to now trying to get them better from the technical aspect to the mental aspect,” said Davis. “I’m really proud of their dedication and hard work. I think they gelled as a unit.”
Latham (Madison) is the Tigers’ only returning starter on the defensive side of the equation at linebacker. He racked up the third most tackles for Northeast during the 2021 campaign with 51.
Taleeq Robbins of Ole Miss highlights a defensive line for the Tigers this season that is almost entirely full of rookies. The lone exceptions to that are John Jackson (Columbus) and D.Q. Watkins (Oxford), who served in reserve roles during the previous campaign.
“We’re not overly big, but we’re active,” said Davis. “I think we’re going to cause some havoc and issues because we’re fast and explosive. In this league, when you can plug gaps and create seams, you can make plays.”
Valdosta State (Ga.) University transfer Dorrian Smith (Fort Valley, Ga.) should make an instant impact at corner. The safety rotation also includes Jacoby McQuiller (West Point), Quae Shorty (Independence) and Gaston.
“All of those guys are free range and they can hit,” Davis said. “The corners are a solid group of guys. They’re smart football players. We’re probably as versatile as you can get in the safety spot.”
Northeast’s staff features defensive coordinator Jonathan Webster, offensive coordinator A.J. Erdely, defensive line coach Parrish Huddleston, linebackers coach Cedric Shell, running backs coach Turner Rotenberry and wide receivers coach Cole Rotenberry.
The Tigers travel to Hinds Community College for the season opener on Thursday. Northeast welcomes Pearl River Community College for its initial home contest one week later.
All Northeast football games this season will air on the Black Channel of NEMCCTV.com (also available on Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV devices) and on the radio at The Shark 102.3 FM out of Ripley.
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