A disappointing end to an otherwise impressive 2013 should serve as tremendous motivation for the 2014 Oscar Smith squad.
Head coach Richard Morgan is no stranger to talented, national-caliber teams. He's also never afraid to play young players. Both of those factors will work in Oscar Smith's favor this season, as it returns a seasoned group of players whose only loss came in the Division 6 state title game.
Perhaps the nation's top statistical freshman last year, Shon Mitchell
is back behind center after throwing for an astounding 2,600 yards and 37 touchdowns as a 14-year-old. He figures to challenge Phillip Sims for all of the program's major passing records.
He'll line up behind a very experienced offensive line that returns four starters and should be one of the team's strengths.Deshawn McClease
, entering his fourth year on varsity, returns as the team's feature back. He has offers from numerous ACC programs.
The Tigers will be relatively inexperienced at wide receiver, and will need some threats to emerge to reach their full potential. Anthony Elliott
is probably the most experienced of the bunch, and will need be counted on to produce.
On defense, there's no doubt that the loss of Andrew Brown, the No. 11 recruit in the 247Composite, will sting. But the defensive line can take solace in boasting one of the nation's premier defensive linemen for the second consecutive season in the form of defensive end Josh Sweat
Sweat has drawn Jadeveon Clowney comparisons by some thanks to his tall, rangy frame and great explosiveness. He has the earmarks of someone who will be playing on Sundays in the not-too-distant future.Keshaan Cuffee
and Antoine Hunt
, two starters who also are key figures on the offensive line, figure to play on the interior on the defensive line. Morgan has never shied away from using players on both sides of the ball, and the formula has been largely successful.
At linebacker, Tavante Beckett
, only a junior, should be one of the team's defensive leaders. The secondary meanwhile is perhaps the team's biggest question mark, as it will need to be almost entirely retooled.
Despite losing Brown and dynamic receiver Jaylen Bradsaw, there are more than enough key pieces in place for Oscar Smith to make a run at another state title. Virginia could feature several nationally-relevant teams this season, so a quest for another state title certainly won't be easy.
"The Tigers remember losing 35-6 to Centreville in the state final last season. They will definitely use that as motivation." - Larry Rubama, Virginian-Pilot (@LHRubama)