New head coach Tommy Parks and his staff have just a few more practice left before they hold their Spring Game at Matthews Field on Thursday evening. So far this spring, Parks has implemented a few things which may be noticeable on Thursday, and so far the players seem to be responding.
They team had nearly perfect attendance for most of Spring Practice, as the Knights prepare for their 2014 season against many teams which they have not seen in a while or ever. Upson-Lee returns many starters from both sides of the ball, and some will be used a little differently from that in the past.
Upcoming sophomore Kalen Puckett returns as the Knights quarterback. Last season as a freshman, Puckett threw for over 800 yards and five touchdowns, completing 62 of 148 passes thrown. Puckett will have three of his top four wide receivers from last season. Keenan Hutchins (6’, 180) caught 16 passes last year as a junior and will be a reliable target for Puckett, along with upcoming junior O’Qualon Harris who caught six passes for 76 yards in limited action last season. Kaleb Allen returns for his senior season after playing just two games last season due to an injury. In those games he caught four passes for 41 yards. Look for some members of last year’s secondary to get an opportunity to play wide out, such as Dinasis Walker and Tigger Walker, while newcomer and basketball standout Antonie Miller has strapped the pads on this spring and has impressed.
The Knights return upcoming senior and two-time All-Region player Dravian Ivey at guard, while they also return soon-to-be junior Logan Gulley at center. The Knights expect plenty of competition from many different players to fill the other guard and two tackle positions. Some of those players include Ben Spillers, Aaron Warren, Chase Duncan, and Cole Winters. Last season Winter played tight end and stood about 6’2, 215 pounds. This season he has grown to 6’4, 255 pounds and has been working at tackle.
Defensively Upson-Lee returns All-Region defensive lineman David Marshall. After receiving offers from Ole Miss and Auburn during the Winter, the 6’4, 255-pounder has gotten offers from Louisville, North Carolina, and Mississippi State just in the last two weeks. Joining Marshall on the defensive line is returning starter Adric Johnson (6’, 265 lbs), who led the Knights in fumble recoveries last season. Bo Cummings, Joey Choy, Antonio Grantling, Jacob Jackson, Dinasis Walker, and Ty Collier also return after seeing significant time on the field last season.
One huge and very noticeable thing the Knights will need to do is find a kicker/punter. Gone is All-Middle Georgia kicker Tyler Stewart, who signed with Mars Hill over the winter. Upcoming sophomore and Tyler’s younger brother, Rich Stewart, will attempt to pick up where his older brother left off.
Upson-Lee will join Region 2 next season, and it will be the first time in four years in which the Knights are not in a sub-divided region. Region 2 will actually be one of the smaller regions in the state, consisting of just seven teams, meaning the top four teams in the region at season’s end will advance to the State Playoffs. Upson-Lee will replace Westside-Macon and Rutland in Region 2; those two schools have dropped to AAA. Remaining in Region 2 will be old R.E. Lee and Upson High rival Mary Persons, along with Howard out of Macon. The Knights will see some familiar faces, such as Baldwin High School out of Milledgeville; the Knights and the Braves were in the same region back in the 2000s.
The farthest school away from Upson-Lee will be West Laurens High School, which is located in Dexter, Georgia, just outside of Dublin. The last time the Knights and Blue Raiders played a sporting event against each other was in a basketball game in which Upson-Lee was victorious in 2004. The last two teams which will be in Region 2 are Veterans High School and Perry High School, both in the same county (Houston).
Here is a look at how the Knights stacked up statistically last season against their future Region 2 opponents.
2013 Region 2 Standings-
1. Veterans: (7-0), 8-4 Overall; lost to Wayne County 20-17 in 2nd round of playoffs
2. Mary Persons: (6-1), 10-2 Overall; lost to Burke County 20-0 in 2nd round of playoffs
3. Westside-Macon: Gone to AAA
4. Rutland: Gone to AAA
5. Perry: (3-4), 3-7 Overall; No playoffs
6 (tie). Baldwin: (2-5), 3-7; No playoffs
6 (tie). West Laurens: (2-5), 3-7 No playoffs
8. Howard: (0-7), 2-8 Overall; No playoffs
2013 Region 2 Points Per Game-
Mary Persons: 24
West Laurens: 20
2013 Region 2 Points Allowed Per Game-
Mary Persons: 11
West Laurens: 23
Upson-Lee: (2-4), 4-6; No playoffs
Points Per Game: 18
Points Allowed Per Game: 24