Fri, Aug. 31, 2012 - [Football]
Article Courtesy of Phil Hicks, Tyler Morning Telegraph
Tyler Junior College head football coach Danny Palmer is entering his 41st year in the business.
And his passion for the game is the same.
"I am just as excited or more excited than when I was coaching at U of H (University of Houston)," Palmer said, "or my first head coaching job at Texarkana, Texas, when I was 24 years old. And just as excited when I coached Lonny Uzzell in Pee Wee baseball at Douglas Elementary."
Ironically, Uzzell is now a member of the TJC Board of Trustees.
As Palmer enters his sixth year as Apaches head coach, he wants to add a conference title to the TJC trophy case.
Last year, the Apaches came close, dropping a 33-29 decision to Navarro in the Southwest Junior College Football Conference championship game in Corsicana.
The Apaches, who open the season Saturday at Fort Scott, Kan., are preseason No. 16 in the nation.
Palmer feels that ranking is justified, although there are many question marks as the fall begins.
"That is probably deserving right now," Palmer said of the ranking. "We will know more about our team after the first two games. … We don't know if we are a good football team yet, because of the question marks in the kicking game and the offensive and defensive line."
After starting in Kansas, the Apaches' home opener is Sept. 8 against Kilgore at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
While the Apaches have some veterans back, the depth chart still needs to be determined.
"Based on what we have done from the first workouts, it will take us a while to find the right combination for the offensive line," Palmer said. "It will probably take two or three games to know who our starters are."
Palmer did note the Apaches have "plenty of depth, because we recruited well."
Leading the way is center Derek Hoffpauir, a sophomore from Pearland, who took every snap as a true freshman.
Other possible candidates include TC Jones of Angleton and Tre Goodwin of Honey Grove.
Palmer is excited about the two quality tight ends in Maxwell Brown of Pearland and Dmarjai Devine of Longview.
At quarterback will be sophomore Tyrik Rollison out of Sulphur Springs.
"We are planning to redshirt Randy Price, who was a part-time starter last year," Palmer said of the sophomore from Waco who had offseason knee surgery. "We feel Randy is a Division I player."
While Price will travel with the team, Lamar Carraway, a true freshman from Lake Providence, La., will be the backup.
Palmer said he will get Carraway in the game whether at QB, slot receiver or kick returner.
He added Rollison is in great shape.
"Last year he came in 20 pounds overweight," Palmer said. "He has lost weight. He took every snap in the spring when Randy was out and it shows."
The receiving core includes Tracy Smith of Arlington, Marquise Smith of Dallas Madison and JaVante Mack of Lufkin.
"Even though we lost Jalen Claiborne to Wyoming (the former Carthage standout was a qualifier and transferred after one season with the Apaches), we have (former Brook Hill standout) Jeremey Chappelle (of Jacksonville)," Palmer added. "Jeremey transferred from Stephen F. Austin (and redshirted at TJC last season). He is a proven player … he played for (SFA) as a true freshman. He is a big, strong receiver."
Defensively, the line has questions as well with the exception of ends Chris Loop of Conroe and Allah Hicks of Bastrop.
"They ended up starting for us later in the year," Palmer said. "After we got beat by Blinn the first time, we decided we needed more speed on the field."
At linebacker, the Apaches have playmakers in Caleb Tuiasosopo of Copperas Cove and Cord Fletcher of Henderson.
The secondary has proven starters in cornerback Charles Higginbotham of Pearland, cornerback Andre Sanders of Cedar Park and weak safety Demarco Johnson of Euless Trinity. Palmer is also high on free safety Kenny Iloka of Fort Bend Kempner.
He added others will have to step up.
While the kicking game is a question, Palmer said he has a dependable deep snapper in Chris McKnight of Cypress Ranch.
"We were fortunate last year, of the seven games we won, five were determined on the last play of the game," Palmer said. "It was not for the faint of heart."
The Apaches open conference Sept. 22 at Blinn.
SMOKE SIGNALS: TJC assistant athletic director Chuck Smith, who is in the Air Force Reserves, will leave for military duty after today. He will spend one month in El Paso for training and then head to the Middle East for a six-to-eight month tour. He is expected to return to TJC in April or May of 2013. TJC held a sendoff for him on Thursday.
Palmer said this year's team includes 37 players from East Texas schools.
2012 TJC Football Schedule
Sept. 1 at Fort Scott (Kan.) 1 p.m.
Sept. 8 Kilgore 7 p.m.
Sept. 15 SE Prep Academy 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 at Blinn 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 NE Oklahoma 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 at Navarro 3 p.m.
Oct. 13 Cisco 7 p.m.
Oct. 20 *Trinity Valley 3 p.m.
Oct. 27 at Kilgore 3 p.m.
*Eagle Stadium, Lindale