Pearl River Community College may be heading into the 2017 football season with myriad questions, but its brand new head coach appears to like what he’s seen.
Ted Egger, PRCC’s defensive coordinator/secondary coach who was named interim head coach in May following the abrupt resignation of Dave Saunders, said the Wildcats have been working hard in the offseason.
“We think this is a talented group,” Egger said. “They just have to prove themselves on the field.”
Especially on offense, where PRCC is under a new coordinator and two new position coaches, returns only minimal experience at quarterback, running back and receiver and welcomes back just two of five starting offensive linemen.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Trevathan will have a new man under center in sophomore Justin Agner, who transferred to PRCC in the spring from Kent State University.
Agner came out ahead in three-way quarterback race at Kent State, starting the 2016 season opener against Pennsylvania State University and completing 8 of 15 passes for 64 yards two interceptions.
Bumped into a backup role for KSU’s second game, Agner suffered an injury during practice and did not play in another game for the Golden Flashes.
Still, Trevethan said experience should help Agner.
“It helps having someone with some experience under center,” Trevathan said. “He’s a good athlete and has a very good arm.”
PRCC has not announced a starting running back, where the Wildcats saw the graduation of sophomore Darious Leggett, who became just the fourth player in school history to reach the 1,000-yard plateau. The former Forrest County Agricultural High School standout ran for 1,022 yards and eight touchdowns in 2016.
The Wildcats do return center Tremaine Chatman (Covington, La.) and left guard Tyrin Arceneaux (LaPlace, La.).
“I believe you have to build your offense around what you have available,” Egger said. “We really like the work that Coach (Terrance) Metcalf has done with our offensive line, and we have a lot of experience there that will make what we do offensively a lot easier.
“I expect us to take care of the football ane be explosive on offense.”
If the Wildcats are to improve on consecutive seasons of 2-7, the impetus may be on defense, where linebacker Chase Crosby (Harrison Central High School) and safety Zhaunte McElroy (FCAHS) return as starters.
Crosby led the team with 56 tackles, with eight tackles for loss, including four sacks. McElroy had 42 tackles, six pass breakups and two interceptions before missing the final game with a knee injury.
The defensive line also welcomes back a pair of starters in Josh Neumann (Pearl River Central High School) and Sigmund Lewis (Hattiesburg High School).
“We expect to be good on defense,” Egger said. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back on that side of the ball, and that will be a big part of our game.”
The Wildcats should get a boost in their kicking game from Mark Johnson (Bay High School), a two-sport standout. Johnson, who also leads PRCC’s soccer team, hit 24 of 25 extra point attempts in 2016 and averaged 42.7 yards per punt last year.
PRCC, which finished 2-4 in South Division play in 2016, will have five home games this season, including visits to Dobie Holden Stadium by rivals Jones County Junior College and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
Three of the Wildcats’ first four games will be played in Poplarville, including the Aug. 31 season opener with Northeast Mississippi Community College.