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Football 2017

BETTER THAN BEFORE

Newton’s Middlebrooks ready to lead ‘physical’ offense in 2017 GABRIEL STOVALL

Gabriel Stovall | The Covington News

gstovall@covnews.com

Much has been made of the Newton Rams’ front seven strength and speed on defense and girth and power along the offensive line. Just as much as been said about the talented tailback duo of senior running back Nuru Tinch and junior Adarius Thomas. Quietly, but confidently looming in the shadows, however, is senior quarterback Myron Middlebrooks.  The 6-foot-3, 195 pounder put up respectable numbers as a first year starter who only played in eight games. Middlebrooks completed 62 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,381 yards and 20 touchdown passes to just five interceptions.  Of course, he benefited from having a five-star wide receiver prospect in now-Georgia freshman J.J. Holloman. But Middlebrooks also dealt with some uncertainty as Newton largely employed a running back by committee approach, and was a little green up front.  It showed most in Region 8-AAAAAAA play, when Newton went a period of three games, starting with South Gwinnett on September 30, where it scored a combined 12 points and were shutout in two straight games at Archer and Grayson. In some of the toughest struggles offensively, Middlebrooks either missed all or part of the games due to injury. “In three of our losses, Myron Middlebrooks doesn’t play,” Terrance Banks said. “And when he didn’t play, we lost badly. When he’s in the game, our offense is different.”  So it must be exciting when Banks looks at Middlebrooks and sees that he’s noticeably bigger, faster and stronger, and is consistently making better decisions with the offense.  “He gets freedom now — and he’s earned this — to audible into play that he wants,” Banks

Newton senior quarterback Myron Middlebrooks has grown physically and otherwise since last season.

RUNDOWN

Hands down, we want to be the most physical team in the state. No, scratch that. We want to be the most physical team on the planet. With no disrespect to the guys who’ll read this, I think this can be our best offensive and defensive line team, and we want to capitalize on that strength.”

- Terrance Banks

said. “He’s become that kind of guy. We don’t want him to stop being him. Running, rolling out and making plays is what makes him a good high school quarterback. But we think he can be even more dangers with a stronger line and running game this year. It can allow him to stay in the pocket a little more.” Middlebrooks will benefit from an offensive line featuring several players standing at 6-foot2 or taller and weighing anywhere between

270 and 330 pounds. Then there’s Tinch who’s a pounder at running back and Thomas who’s more of a jitterbug. When those elements combine, Banks is looking for his signal caller to engineer a pretty potent offense. “He’s able to see the field and make those decisions we ask him to now,” he said. “Last year it was just about running the playbook, but now it’s all about navigating the offense and knowing why he’s doing what he’s doing.”

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Returning Starters: 7 total on offense, including quarterback Myron Middlebrooks, running backs Nuru Tinch and Adarius Thomas and virtually the entire offensive line. On defense, notables like Darnell Jefferies, Jaison Taylor, Cozbi Craig and Elija Godwin. Key Departures: J.J. Holloman, Jaquan Henderson, Deonta Clark, Robert Black, IV, Jeremiah Bundrage and Dante Johnson.  When On Offense: Newton will run a variation of a shotgun spread, but with more tools and flexibility at its disposal. That’s because Middlebrooks, a senior, is not only bigger, faster and stronger, but also smarter with a year of starting experience under his belt. Because of that, he’s been given extend play calling responsibilities. A strong rushing game

with Tinch and Thomas running behind what coach Terrance Banks calls, “potentially the best offensive line we’ve had since I’ve been here,” could be punishing. When On Defense: Banks and company will employ a “multiple 50” look that will seek to take advantage of a solid front seven that has potential star power with Jefferies up front. Linebacker Cozbi Craig looks like an emerging star. And the secondary is stacked. Banks wants to attack with that size and speed in order to create multiple turnovers.  When On Special Teams: With so much speed on the roster to choose from, the return game will be strong for the Rams. Godwin broke loose several times last season, including a 95 yard kickoff return against rival Eastside. 

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