After the Raiders won four games combined in 2009-2010, first-year Keenan coach Quin McCollum is hoping to build on the upward trend of the past two seasons. The Raiders won five games in 2011 and went 7-5 last year, with a first round playoff victories both seasons.
McCollum will have a vast array of offensive weapons at his disposal, and it will start with the versatile Peter Easaw. The senior is a special teams phenom with eight return kicks for touchdowns last season. In addition to his special teams role, Easaw will see time at running back, slot receiver and split out wide. He’s also going to work in the secondary this season.
“Peter is a very special young man,” McCollum said. “He’s well-spoken, very humble and sort of hides from the spotlight a little bit, but he does a great job of getting guys motivated. We’re going to a lot of things with him. He’s one that has a great opportunity to play at the next level. I hope we’ll utilize his talents as much as possible.”
Easaw has been among a core group of about 20 to 25 players who have emerged as leaders. That has resulted in better participation in summer conditioning. McCollum believes that the success on the field the past two years has encouraged players to step up.
“Those guys have been a tremendous help to me,” McCollum said. “They have set a standard here, and these guys want to keep that going. I feel they are a little more confident going into this season even though they have a new coach. Our summer conditioning has really helped us out.”
McCollum is making his head coaching debut after holding assistant jobs at Marlboro County, Wilson, Cheraw, Carver’s Bay, McBee and Spring Valley.
He has an assortment of skill position talent to work with. Junior Deion Trezevant is penciled in as the starting quarterback. It will be his first year starting on the varsity level, but he has been one of the more vocal leaders in preseason camp.
D’Vaughn Kelley will be featured in a tight end/H-back role. Kendrick Gathers will see time at receiver, running back and backup quarterback. Tiski Gray will man the fullback position in the spread and pistol formations the Raiders will employ.
Justice Worley will be the catalyst along the offensive line.
“When you have the number of skill guys we have, you have to be able to adapt and move people around,” McCollum said.
Many of those standouts will play huge roles on defense as well. The roster has 40 players listed, and McCollum would like to have a few more to help with depth. He feels that is the biggest obstacle to overcome going into the season.
“We have a number of guys that will contribute both ways,” McCollum said. “We have to develop some depth. That is a big concern right now. Our numbers aren’t as high as we’d like, and a good number of guys will play both ways, but with that being said, we’re going to do a lot of substitution. We’re only going to be as good as our backups, so we have to get them ready to go.”
McCollum hopes to use the annual success Keenan finds on the basketball court to help build his program.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” he said. “We have great support, and we want to build the Raider Nation community up for football. I understood when I came here, it was a basketball culture. We want to infuse into that culture a bit and have everybody involved.”