The Conway Tigers will look a lot different in 2018.
In addition to losing 15 starters to graduation, Conway is adding many wrinkles to its usual spread offense.
Coach Carlton Terry said the Tigers don’t have a quarterback with the ability to sling the football around the way Darren Grainger and Peyton Derrick did and they are looking at different options to make the offense go. Terry hopes the new offense, which includes multiple options like jumping in and out of different formations, will make it more difficult for opponents by forcing them to prepare for multiple looks.
DaQuinton Grady, who was a starter at cornerback a season ago, will be in charge of directing the offense.
“We’re looking at some things that play along with our talents,” Terry said. “DaQuinton is stepping in at quarterback. He hasn’t played quarterback since his sophomore year on the JV team. He’s a smart kid. He’ll be able to make reads and audibles based on what the defense gives us. We have a good group of skill guys to support him. We have some other young quarterbacks but at this time DaQuinton stands out above the others."
Terry acknowledged the squad lost many talented players to graduation, but he stressed their replacements will help move the ball down the field.
“We’ve got a good bit of weapons on offense,” he said. “They come out here and compete every day and strive to get better.”
The only two returning starters on offense are lineman Sam Hall and tailback Xavier Kinlaw.
“The offensive line is a challenge,” Terry said. “We have to replace four of five starters. We have to be creative on offense in order to get those guys some experience. It’s working out well.”
Terry said offensive line coaches Steve Hall and Greg Lawson are working hard to make sure the players are as prepared as possible.
“We’ll do things to help ‘em by getting the ball out quickly,” Terry said, “and doing things on the back end to help ‘em out.”
In addition to running the ball, Conway hopes to get the ball in Kinlaw’s hands in a variety of ways. He will also serve as the team’s backup quarterback in addition to seeing action as a receiver and on special teams. The versatile Kinlaw could also see some playing time at corner on defense.
Although Conway will be inexperienced, Terry believes the team will be motivated to play typical Conway football.
“Playing behind some good players helps kids to be motivated to play up to the level of the previous team,” he said. “We all want to compete. We don’t want to lose. We have high expectations for our kids. We also have to be realistic because of the talent we lost last year. The important factor is coming in and evaluating our kids, putting them in position to be successful and coaching them.”
The defense returns five starters and will be a team strength. The leaders include Nysiem Bellamy, Malik Robinson, DeAunte Sherman, Tonka Hemingway and Timothy Shelton. Bellamy is a returning starter at one of the corners, and Hemingway is a fixture at defensive end. He will also see action at tight end.
“We’ll move Malik Robinson around a little bit,” Terry said. “He’s an outside linebacker and defensive end-type kid. He played safety last year.”
Terry is also impressed with Timothy Steele, who will see action on both lines. Outside linebacker Steven Hill will also play a much more prominent role in 2018 after playing sparingly a season ago.
“Our ‘D’ can be extremely competitive,” Terry said. “We have some talent over there.”
The Tigers also return placekicker/punter Will Smith.
“We’re just looking forward to competing every week,” Terry said, “Our guys have worked hard to put a good product on the field.”
Conway will open the new campaign Aug. 16 with a Thursday Night Lights matchup at home against North Myrtle Beach. Game time is 7:05 p.m. on CW 21.