Unaka will look to return to the TSSAA playoffs with a new dual threat in the backfield. The Rangers, however, have a dual option at the quarterback position.
The Rangers, coached by Steve “Pink” McKinney, will look to two players to replace Eli Rasnick at quarterback. Unaka battled back from a 1-6 start to finish the year 4-7 and qualify for the TSSAA Class A playoffs.
However, the Rangers will look to a sophomore and junior to try and fill the void left behind by Rasnick. Sophomore Austin Taylor and junior Micah Hunt have been sharing snaps with the first string, and McKinney isn’t giving a nod to either player.
“Replacing Rasnick won’t be easy,” McKinney said. “We’re probably going have to do different packages for the two quarterbacks because both of them present different problems for a defense. One of them is a better thrower; one of them is a better runner. One of them can make plays and the other one’s a hard-nosed kid.”
Taylor has shown the ability to be an effective passing quarterback, while Hunt is known for his athleticism.
Unaka returns a strong group of six seniors who have played roles in games for the Rangers.
The duo of Taylor and Hunt will share the backfield with junior running back Brandon Guinn. While the Rangers will have to replace three key skill players from last season, the offensive line looks to set the tone with two players over 240. The line will be anchored at left tackle by Travis Overdorf who stands at 6-5 and weighs in at 245 pounds. Overdorf is joined by Joe Oliver (6-3, 240), Joe Pate (5-10, 220) and Johnathan Rounds (6-1, 215).
Defensively, the Rangers will see Taylor play an integral role at middle linebacker, while Hunt will be a starting defensive back. Jacob Day also returns after a stellar freshman campaign on the defensive line.
Unaka only had 23 players on roster midway through preseason camp, and with that will see a number of players play on both sides of the ball.
In fact, Hunt will also be a dangerous kickoff returner for the Rangers.
Unaka opens the 2014 season at Oliver Springs with road games set at Sullivan East, Cloudland and South Greene. The Rangers will host six home games with Hampton, Avery County (NC), Hancock, Tri-Cities Christian, North Greene and Cosby set to make the trip to Stoney Creek.