Alexander ended its year on Friday with a 34-22 victory over Southeastern. With the 2020 season officially behind them, Coach Earich Dean and the Spartans’ coaching staff have already started working on how the team will look in 2021.
Alexander went through a lot of struggles this season, and much of that is due to its youth. The Spartans graduated 13 seniors and didn’t have a lot of returning talent with experience. Now, with a whole of playing time under their belts, combined with the fact that they are only graduating six seniors in 2021, Dean feels confident in the Spartans’ ability to be a playoff team next season.
With that in mind, here is everything you need to know about each position group for Alexander heading into next season:
Xander Karagosian played most of the snaps under center for the Spartans, but they also played Michael Lash in the first game of the season. Freshman Jordan Schulz also found time at quarterback, mostly to get him snaps at the varsity level.
All three quarterbacks will return in 2021, with Dean giving all three the chance to earn the starting job. For Dean, he is looking for which one of those players makes the biggest jump in the offseason, as he knows all three have things they need to improve on.
For Karagosian, Dean would like to see him improve his throwing ability so he can pair that with his rushing threat and become more of a dual-threat quarterback. Dean thinks that Lash might have the best arm on the team currently, but would like to see him improve his pocket presence and ability to read the defense. As for Schulz, Dean just wants to see him mature and grow as he is only going to be a sophomore next season.
Skill Positions (Running Backs/Receivers)
The Spartans lose one of their team leaders next year in running back Logan Neal. Losing his impact and production will hurt Alexander, but it’s in prime position to replace him with some of the other running backs on the team.
Sophomore Jagger Cain seems to be the most likely lead running back next season, as he already was sharing snaps in the backfield with Neal and led the team in touchdowns with five. Logan Jenkins has also seen snaps and plays called for him as a running back and a jet sweep receiver, and his volume is expected to increase with Neal graduating.
If he does not end up playing quarterback, Lash will probably end up being the number one receiver, just as he was for most of the 2020 season. Jenkins will also continue to line up for most of his snaps at receiver. Dean also mentioned that he expects to see Landen Althouse, Colton Ashcraft and Brody Montgomery make an impact in the receiving game next season.
The biggest places where Alexander will be hurting from losing seniors is in the trenches, on both sides of the ball. Dean will be graduating Jonathan Sheridan, Michael Wells, Drew Harris and Braydon Montgomery in May, all of whom played extensive time on the offensive line this season.
The biggest returner up front will be junior Gage Vincent, who seems set to step into a leadership role of a mostly young and inexperienced group of offensive lineman next year. Connor Moore and Brandon Ames also got some snaps on the offensive line this season, but that still leaves two spots open for either someone currently on the roster or incoming freshmen.
The problem that plagued the offensive line also exists on the defensive line, as Sheridan, Wells, Harris and Braydon Montgomery all play defensive line as well. Vincent will also be the lone returner who got significant playing time, meaning Dean is looking for freshmen or underclassmen on the roster who did not play much to take a huge step up next season and be ready to play right away.
Linebacker is another spot where they are graduating some leaders and will need to find someone to fill their role. Neal and Keaton Pack watched over the defense at the linebacker position, but they both will be graduating in May and Dean will need someone to step up and match their production. The biggest returner at linebacker is Landon Hornsby, who seems most likely to step up and replace Neal as the lead linebacker next year.
Some of Dean’s standout skill position players, like Jenkins, Cain and Brody Montgomery have seen time at outside linebacker this year and it seems very likely that one of them could be the alongside Hornsby at inside linebacker in 2021. It is also worth mentioning that Cain has played a lot of defensive back this season as well, so Dean may prefer to have him in the secondary rather than at linebacker.
Defensive back is the lone defensive group that will return all of its members in the 2021 season. Leading the way in the secondary is Lash, as he finished the 2020 season with a TVC-Ohio-leading five interceptions. Cain and Karagosian also chipped in with two and one pick, respectively.
With those three, along with Althouse as the number two cornerback, and Brody Montgomery, shared snaps with Cain at the outside linebacker and safety positions this season, the secondary is set to be the biggest strength of Alexander’s defense in 2021.
Along with being a standout linebacker, Pack was also the kicker and punter for Alexander this season. With him being a senior, that is another hole the Spartans need to fill. On a few occasions this season where Pack was on the sideline resting an injury for a few plays, Karaogisan punted for Alexander, but it seems unlikely for him to be the permanent answer.