By SAM McGAW
The Franklin Rebels return to the gridiron this fall with several holes to fill on both sides of the ball.
After going 10-3 last season, Franklin must replace four of its top weapons on offense and most of its defensive starters.
“We have 24 seniors, and we are excited about most of them,” Franklin head coach Donnie Webb said at the Williamson County Schools Media Day. “Most of them contributed in some form last year. We’re expecting them to take the leadership and continue on with it.”
The Rebels will compete against Brentwood, Dickson County, Independence, Ravenwood and Centennial in Region 6-6A.
“If you take the five teams in Williamson County, one of them isn’t going to make the playoffs,” Webb said. “If you put that team into another region or round in Middle Tennessee or the West, they’d be in the playoffs.”
Someone needs step up for Franklin’s spread-option offense this season.
While the unit returns quarterback Carter Hendry and slot receiver Gentry Neese, it must find a way to replace the production of running back Mitch Rossi (Ohio State) and receivers Alex Gaca (Memphis) and JP Batarseh (Austin Peay).
Rossi was a workhorse for the Rebels last season, registering 1,398 rushing yards, 221 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.
“We do not have a running back like Mitch Rossi, size-wise,” Webb said. “He was a special kid. He’s not the fastest, but for his size he was pretty quick.”
Webb said he expects to use at least two running backs this season, with Michael Crowther, Matt Gaca and Rashad Jenkins competing for the role.
Hendry is the team’s returning leading rusher. Despite splitting time with Wes Patterson last season, he recorded 827 passing yards, 578 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns (9 run) and five interceptions.
“It’s Carter’s offense,” Webb stated. “We’re running the same option offense with Carter leading it.
“Between the two QBs [last season], if you put their stats together, they would’ve positioned for some all-state teams.”
Neese (18 rec., 194 yds, 2 TDs), Chancellor Bright, Avery Jones and John Conner Craig are expected to see time at receiver.
Up front, the Rebels have one of the top offensive tackles in the nation in senior Ohio State commit Max Wray. He’s making the switch from right tackle to left tackle this season.
Kyle Means and Hunter Waldrum are returning starters in the trenches.
There are several voids to fill throughout the Rebels’ defense.
In the front-seven, the team lost defensive linemen Conner Palk (52 tkls, 14.5 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 INT) and Barrett Brown (67 tkls, 12.5 TFL, 4 sacks) and linebackers Harrison Brown (77 tkls, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT) and Zach Polisky (56 tkls, 12 TFL, 2 INT).
The Rebels must also replace defensive backs Carter Bowman (47 tkls, 2 INTs), Jared Howell (40 tkls, 2 INTs), Matthew Burns (31 tkls, 4.5 sacks) and Jonathan Giles (25 tkls, 2 INTs).
“Defensively, we lost a ton,” Webb said. “We have several guys that played, but a lot of experience you can’t give to a person, they have to get it on the field. As for actual (on-field) experience, we have two defensive linemen that have actual playing experience and one linebacker.”
Junior Christian Moolman (55 tkls, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF) and senior Adam Sirface are expected to battle in the trenches for the Rebels.
Junior Khani Kelton (43 tkls, 1 INT) and senior Price Wynn (18 tkls) will play linebacker.
“Price Wynn, you’re going to hear his name,” Webb said. “He’s going to be a good outside linebacker for us. He moved from his hand in the dirt and now he’s going to stand up. He’s an athletic kid that can move.”
Neese (3 INTs) and Garrison Glover are the only players with experience in the secondary.
Sam McGaw is the sports editor for Brentwood Home Page, Franklin Home Page, Nolensville Home Page and Spring Hill Home Page. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcGaw_ .