LAGRANGE – He was a big play waiting to happen.
When Camren Russell touched the football last season, chances are something good was going to occur.
Russell had a fantastic junior season, averaging more than 15 yards everytime he had the ball in his hands.
As Troup heads into its season opener on Friday against Hardaway, Russell is one of the play-makers the coaches will be counting on to produce in a big way.
“Cam last year was our most explosive guy on offense,” offensive coordinator Kelby Holt said. “He was averaging 16 yards when he touched the ball. People probably didn’t see that a lot with the other people we had, but he was very explosive.”
Troup’s offense is a combination of players like Russell who have been through the Friday-night battles before, and some talented but unproven players who will be getting their first major taste of varsity football.
Head coach Tanner Glisson said he’ll be counting on the veterans, including Russell and fellow offensive standouts Ken Truitt and Chanse Hill, to lead the way.
“We need guys like Ken Truitt, and Camren Russell, who have been there, to play well,” Glisson said. “Because they’re going to have to help some of these younger guys.”
Russell was a bright spot during a difficult 2015 season.
Russell stepped into the spotlight during his sophomore season when he was part of an explosive group of running backs.
A year ago, Russell had another big year, although the team struggled to a 1-9 record.
Now, Russell will be a staple and a veteran presence on an offense with some untested players.
“He’s one of those guys that’s been tested, so we need him to play well,” Glisson said. “He’s been in the fire.”
The same goes for Truitt.
A year ago, Truitt was one of Troup’s quarterbacks, and he split time with Dexter Shealey and Montez Crowe.
When Troup won its lone game in the regular-season finale against Whitewater, Truitt played wide receiver, and he made a handful of explosive plays.
The versatile Truitt can play multiple positions on offense and can also return kicks, and like Russell he has the ability to go the distance on a given play.
Another talented offensive veteran is Hill, who was one of Troup’s top wide receivers last year and will be counted on to carry a heavy load this fall.
“He’s another one who needs to play well,” Glisson said. “He’s been there.”
Following the spring game this year, Hill said “I love playing with these guys, and they love playing with me. We just work hard together.”
Fellow senior wide receiver Jack Schweizer also has plenty of experience under the lights, and he’ll be on the field Friday night against Hardaway.
Another veteran is Brandon Barronton, who will anchor an inexperienced offensive line.
Barronton is the only returning starter on the offensive line, and there’s nowhere on the field he’d rather be.
“Honestly, I wouldn’t want to play another position,” Barronton said. “I love it. You’re right there. You’re in the trenches. You’re hitting somebody every play. If it wasn’t for us, nothing else would happen.”
Crowe doesn’t have the experience of some of his offensive teammates, but he’s hardly a newcomer.
Crowe started Troup’s final game against Whitewater and played well, and he got plenty of time on the field before that.
“I think we’ve got everything together,” Crowe said this summer. “We’ve got running backs, when they get to the hole, they’re gone. And we’ve got senior wide receivers.”
Crowe knows his job is to make plays, but to also be a leader.
“It’s my job to keep things together when they don’t go right, and to keep everybody up,” Crowe said.
One of Troup’s newcomers on offense is a player who a year ago was preparing for his final season of middle-school football.
Freshman Kobe Hudson, who already has some college offers, should be an impact player right away as a running back and wide receiver.
During the spring game this year, Hudson played quarterback and did a nice job.
“Kobe Hudson is probably the most talented person we have on this football team, as a freshman,” Glisson said. “And he’s never played on a Friday. We need the other guys to play well to ease some of the anxiety of the younger guys.”
Troup is in its second season with Glisson at the helm, and Holt is his offensive coordinator once again.
The play book is much more expansive than it was a year ago, and the players all have a much better expectation of what Holt and the other offensive coaches are expecting.
“We just didn’t have time (last year),” Glisson said, referring to the offensive play book. “We had time to introduce it, but we didn’t have time to teach it. The offense right now that we’re running at this point, is what we envisioned it would be.”
However much success Troup has offensively will be largely dependent on Crowe, and Glisson believes he’s ready for that responsibility.
“He has done a really good job of putting himself in position to make reads, to get us as coaches out of bad plays,” Glisson said. “When we call bad plays, he’ll change it at the line of scrimmage. It’ll be interesting to see with him, having only started one game last year, how he’s going to do. He’s excited, he’s ready.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports
Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News