ROCKINGHAM — As Richmond Senior coach Paul Hoggard scans his roster this season, he sees a lot of talent returning.
But he also had a lot depart.
Richmond finished 9-4 last season and finished third in the Southeastern Conference with a 3-2 mark. It was the worst finish for the team since the SEC reformed in 2009. Richmond downed Lake Norman 55-27 in the first round of the state 4AA playoffs before falling to Northwest Guilford 31-12 in the the next round.
The Raiders will be without their top passer, receiver and rusher from last year. Brent Flowers led the team with 938 passing yards and nine touchdowns, Raheem Bowden grabbed 28 catches for 606 yards and five scores, and Diquon Cox ran for 1,586 yards and 19 touchdowns.
That is the bad news.
The good news is on the other side of the ball, where Richmond returns Harrison Nelson, last season’s top tackler with 104 stops, and P.J. Everett, who led the team with three interceptions.
The defense will also feature Ray Ellerbe, who recorded 100 tackles as a junior, Jaelin Beugre (62 tackles), Gus Chambers (48 tackles) and Cyrus Stanback (32 tackles).
“I think probably our strength on defense is our team speed,” Hoggard said. “We looked more aggressive in the secondary than we have. We’re not real big, but we run pretty good. We’ve got really good speed on the edge.”
Richmond will make a break from its traditional 4-3 defense this season and line up in the 3-4 formation. Hoggard said the switch was made out of necessity with the lack of linemen on the roster.
“We had more linebacker-type kids and less down guys,” he said. “Quentin Terry was able to go to linebacker in the middle. He gives us that bigger 210-pound guy that can run at linebacker. He has really done well. We always thought he was a linebacker and he is finally becoming one.”
Just because coordinator Mark Arthur will have a lot of players ready to slide into his new 3-4 defense, don’t think the offense doesn’t also have some key pieces back this season.
“Our skill set is pretty good, running backs, receivers, we have really good team speed and we’ve got pretty good skill kids,” Hoggard said. “And we got some really good lineman-type kids, we just don’t have very many. For the first time in the 17 seasons I have been here, we are cross-training our big guys, they are playing both sides of the ball, which is a new thing for us to have ever done.”
Kevin Norton will start at left tackle and play on the defensive line for the first time since his freshman year. Stanback, on the other hand, will make his first appearance on the offensive line for Richmond. Stanback is expected to start at right tackle and Hoggard said his senior has been a quick study at his new position.
“He really is a good offensive lineman. With him it is learning what to do,” Hoggard said. “A lot of things got thrown on him since the spring. He had to learn three years of offensive line stuff in a spring and so far this summer. His head is spinning, but fortunately Chad (Phillips), the guard beside him is really, really smart and has played it his whole career and he knows what everybody does. So there’s a lot of help. Chad is Cyrus’ reminder sheet.”
Quientel Goodwin, Miles Grant, Shavar Little and Jesse Williams will lead the Richmond rushing attack, while Tyler Calhoun, Lavell Ellerbe, Montek Johnson and Desmond Marshall are expected to spearhead the passing attack with quarterback Luke Hoggard.
“Our backs we feel really good about,” Paul Hoggard said. “We feel like we have quality backs that can go in and play and be in good shape with any of them. Physically we’ve got a really good looking bunch (of receivers). We’ve got some kids that have good size on them, they got good height and they run well. It’s just a matter of them getting game-ready. Physically, they have the tools to be a good unit. When they can grasp all the concepts, we feel like we will have good weapons at the receiving corps.
“I think the whole group can really make plays and do a lot of good things. I really do think it will really be a little more spread out. You never know how it will go, one guy may emerge as the top pass catcher, but I think all of those guys have the ability to be that guy.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.