PIGSKIN PREVIEW: Panthers offensive trio ready to take charge
By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector
Friday, August 23, 2019
As Greg Watford enters his second year leading the rebuild at North Pitt he returns a team that may not have many seniors, but holds plenty of leadership, especially on offense.
The Panthers will have a trio of returning players of various years ready to help quickly bring new players into the fold, junior quarterback Alex Espinosa-Johnson, sophomore running back Raheem Jones and senior wide receiver Steven Carroll.
Those three players will play a large role in keeping the team focused, both on the field and in practice.
"It starts with us, being leaders," Espinosa-Johnson said. "We have to lead by example, because that's what they really look up to. If we lead by example they will do the right thing, if we don't they're going to do something totally wrong."
Jones, who burst on the scene in his freshman campaign is eager to show other players what it takes to be successful, no matter their age.
"To me, last season played a big part in me taking that role (of a leader)," Jones said. "I'm still a young guy, but I'm older than some of my teammates, so coming in it was easier for me to lead them in the right direction. Last season I was where these new guys are now. For them to look up to me this year, it means a lot."
With their leadership position Espinosa-Johnson, Jones and Carroll have been an extension of Watford and his coaching staff during practices, and their efforts have paid off.
"I feel that we have been doing great through the summer," Espinosa-Johnson said. "We've been coming out here and working hard every day. There's a bunch of new guys and there weren't many seniors that left. My expectations for the year are to take it one game at a time. We just want to go out there and compete."
Carroll, who spent the majority of his time on the field last season at defensive end, has made the switch to wide receiver. Standing at 6-foot-3, and weighing in at 223 pound, down nearly 30-pounds from last season, Carroll has the opportunity to thrive when Espinosa-Johnson drops back in the pocket.
"I feel good about the change," Carroll said. "I really just want to get out there and continue to help the team.We are really focusing on being more of a team this year instead of individuals. Personally, my goals are simple. I want to make sure the team is always ready and that my guys are prepared, because this team is not about individualism."
Jones has also undergone a position change, while he will stay at running back, he will also line up at nose guard due to his athleticism.
"Becoming a nose guard was a big change," Jones said. "I like the position and I think I can really thrive there on defense."
The Panthers, who will look to rebound after their second consecutive 1-10 season, will begin their campaign tonight when they host Washington.
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.