There will be changes at the top for the Caver-Columbus football team this fall.
There will be new coach and a new quarterback for the program that has produced double-digit wins each season since 2006.
The school hired Joe Kegler as the replacement for coach Dell McGee, who left to take a support position with the Auburn football team. McGee won 88 games and a state championship in eight years at Carver. The Tigers went 15-0 in 2007 and beat Cairo in the title game.
Kegler was an original member of the staff that McGee assembled, first serving as the offensive line coach and then as the offensive coordinator for the last two seasons. Kegler grew up in Columbus and graduated from Carver in 2001. He played football at Fort Valley State and joined the Carver staff in 2001. Being a McGee disciple, it is unlikely that Kegler will shake things up too much.
The other change is at quarterback. Torrance McGee, a starter for the last two seasons, transferred to North Cobb. He will be replaced by Jawon Pass, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound sophomore with very little varsity experience. The job won’t be made any easier by the graduation of leading rusher Brandon Thomas and top receiver Marqui Hawkins, who signed with Florida.
And while those are two unproven places on the Carver team, there’s no question that the Tigers should be good on defense. There they are led by junior Mekhi Brown, a defensive end who has already committed to play at Alabama and has been chosen to play in the Army All-American Game. Brown (6-6, 230) chosen Alabama over Florida, Florida State and Clemson and is the second Alabama player to commit for the 2015 recruiting class.
Other important defensive players back are linebackers Niemus Bryant, Tim Whatley and Tim London and defensive backs Khane Pass and Kiante Walton.
Bryant (6-2, 230) has already made a commitment to Georgia State. He has a good burst off the line and has good acceleration.
Whatley (6-0, 185) was an honorable mention all-state player last year. He’s also an intelligent player on the field and off. He carries a 4.1 grade point average in the school’s math and science magnet program and wants to be a pharmacist.
Kegler is only the school’s fourth head coach since 1961. Pete Sanders coached there from 1961-75 and was followed by Wallace Davis from 1976-2004.
2012 record: 11-2, 6-0 in Region 2-AAA, lost in quarterfinals to Buford
Starters returning: 6 offense, 7 defense
Key players lost: WR Marqui Hawkins, RB Brandon Thomas, OL John Thomas, QB Torrance McGee, DE Brandon Watt
Key players returning: LB Tim Whatley, DE Mekhi Brown, LB Tim London, DB Khane Pass
Schedule: Aug. 30 Spencer, Sept. 5 at Shaw, Sept. 13 Colquitt County, Sept. 20 Tri-Cities, Sept. 27 at Pike County, Oct. 11 at Henry County, Oct. 18 Southwest Macon, Oct. 24 at Central Macon, Nov. 1 Peach County, Nov. 8 Jackson.
Outlook: A lot depends on the transition at quarterback, where untested Jawon Pass gets thrown into the fire. The Tigers are expected to be good defensively, but it remains to be seen if they can score enough points.