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Oxford will rely on young ‘nucleus’ this season

OXFORD — There is a nucleus returning for Oxford, but it is one that is young and not wealthy in experience. Entering his 22nd year at Oxford, it is a challenge that Drew Tyler welcomes.

“We’ve logged in a bunch of gym time and that’s a plus because we’re kind of like the land of the youth,” Tyler said. “The nucleus of our program is sophomores and juniors. There’s some game experience in that group but we just need to see new faces and get game experience under our belt. We’ve got questions that need to be answered and that will only be answered in heated competition that aren’t intersquad games.”

With two seniors in Landon Norris and Andre Baskin, the Chargers have 10 juniors on the roster and will rely on most of them to contribute in some way.

The past two seasons have seen Tyler lose standouts Jarkel Joiner and Tucker Scott to graduation, taking with them most of Oxford’s offensive production from recent seasons. This year, there won’t be one star player lighting up the scoreboard every night. The offense will come by committee.

“It’s been about six or seven years since we’ve, from top to bottom, were as inexperienced as we are going into this season,” Tyler said. “We’ve always had to compete above our talent level in 4, 5 and 6A over the last 22 years. We’ve had to out team people and that’s what we’re going to have to do this year. We’re going to have get creative in certain lineups that I put in to achieve certain things on offense and certain things on defense.”

The juniors who have the most experience are Kylan Blackmon and Cade McKellar. They were looked to last season to help provide points and fill the void that was left by Joiner. The season did not go Blackmon and McKellar’s way in terms of overall production, but a good offseason and summer has helped them.

“McKellar, Blackmon and (Tykel) Owens have really competed against each other,” Tyler said. “They really push each other. They make each other better. All of them got some varsity minutes. Those guys should be able to lead even though they’re not seniors and coach (Tyler) Reed and I will look to them for leadership.”

Once football season is over for Oxford, which they hope is in early December, Tyler will have his full lineup with Byron Pearson and J.J. Pegues joining the team. Pegues, who is recovering from a knee injury, will be the starting center but could rotate minutes with junior Stetson Ponder and freshman Jarvis Avant.

Tyler will also have a familiar face return to Oxford this season. Former Charger and Water Valley player Quantavious Jones transferred back to Oxford after spending time in Chicago and will bolster the forward position.

Oxford begins their season on Saturday against Bruce in the Calhoun City Classic at 5 p.m.