COLUMBIA, Miss. (WDAM) - For the past few football seasons, Carlos Stubbs and his East Marion High School teammates knew who they would turn to in tough moments, who they would rally around in the stretch.
But Devin Daniels is gone, graduated after starting three seasons behind center for the Eagles.
Now, it will be up to Stubbs and his fellow upper classmen to provide the leadership and guidance as Daniels’ replacement not only has to confront opponents, but a learning curve as well.
“Experience, that’s all it is really,” said Stubbs, a senior receiver/defensive end who was picked as East Marion’s “Player of the Pine Belt.” “Learning from the losses you took previously.
“You want to take that and try to help the quarterback coming in. Guide and show him what to do.”
First-year coach Brad Hughes said Daniels’ successor has yet to separate himself from a four-man competition for the spot.
“I’m still waiting for that guy to emerge to the front of the line,” Hughes said. “Sometimes it takes when you put them pads on. It’ll kind of show itself more openly.
“A lot of guys can stand there and throw the ball down the field when nobody’s coming after them. But that decision-maker, it’ll show up who’s the most ready once you get the live action going on.”
Hughes had no doubts about the kind of year Stubbs can have.
The 6-foot-1, 165-pound Stubbs stepped in as an edge rusher for the first time, and wound up with 43 tackles, including eight sacks. He also recovered two fumbles, forced one and came up with an interception.
“He’s going to be a big-time player for us this year at wide receiver and also on the defensive side of the ball,” Hughes said. “He’s a defensive end-outside linebacker type guy (who) really gets after it.
“I think he led the district in sacks last year as a junior. Just excited about him as a pass-rusher off the edge. Exhibits good leadership and just seems to be a good young man.”
Stubbs is heading into his fourth season as a receiver for a program that traditionally had built its offense around a fleet running game.
Daniels changed the equation a bit, throwing for more than 1,800 yards two seasons ago. But last year, the Eagles played more to expected form, with Daniels throwing for less than 1,000 yards.
Still, Stubbs turned in his finest season, with seven catches for 197 yards and team-high three touchdowns.
Hughes said regardless of who wins the starting quarterback job, the Eagles will mix up the offense.
“My kind of philosophy is do what’s working,” Hughes said. “Whatever’s working, that’s what we’ll do. Whether it’s running the ball, throwing the ball, whatever’s open is what we’re going to try to do.”
Stubbs said he has liked what he’s heard from his new coach.
“Coach Hughes is more of an offensive-minded coach,” Stubbs said. “Offense is always fun. You always want to score points, so that brings another vibe to the team.”
With Daniels gone, opposing teams might believe the Eagles to be vulnerable this fall.
Stubbs said they likely thought the same things before East Marion roared into the Class 1A South State championship game in 2018 and had stitched together an eight-game winning streak before being derailed in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
The Eagles did indeed have Daniels both seasons, but also had lost major contributors from the previous seasons.
Modest seasons, at best, were expected by many.
Except the Eagles.
“I like being the underdog because from out the gate, they’re already thinking, ‘Nah they ain’t gonna do this, they ain’t gonna do that,’” Stubbs said. “But it always feels good to surprise somebody. That’s why I always take pride in being an underdog.”