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Filling holes: Rangers busy replacing skill positions

August 5th, 2014 8:26 pm by Trey Williams

Filling holes: Rangers busy replacing skill positions

ELIZABETHTON — Unaka coach Steve “Pink” McKinney must replace quarterback Eli Rasnick this season, and he’ll probably use four feet to fill those cleats.

McKinney has a pretty efficient passer in sophomore Austin Taylor and an athletic playmaker in junior Micah Hunt, and he wants opposing defenses to have to account for the possibility of either being at quarterback.

“Replacing Eli Rasnick won’t be easy,” McKinney said. “We’re probably gonna have to do different packages for the two quarterbacks, Austin Taylor and Micah Hunt … because both of them present different problems for a defense. One of them’s a better thrower, one of them’s a better runner. One of them can make plays and the other one’s a hard-nosed kid.”

Indeed, Taylor will also quarterback the defense at middle linebacker. 

“I’m gonna have a lot on my shoulders this year,” Taylor said. “I think I can handle it.”

Taylor is one of the Rangers’ hardest hitters, along with Jacob Day. He returned a fumble for a touchdown against Cosby last year as a freshman.

But Hunt is the one with another gear. Hunt and running back Brandon Guinn are arguably the two fastest Unaka players.

Record-setting Unaka quarterback Josh Peterson, who is preparing for his senior baseball season with Milligan College, is spending part of his spare time working with Hunt and Taylor. Peterson was a dual threat at Unaka, and says Taylor and Hunt will allow the Rangers to travel by land or air.

“Micah’s really shifty and a little crafty,” Peterson said. “He can move pretty good, agile. And Austin’s … got a little bit of an arm on him. I feel like both of them will get a lot of playing time back there.”

With Unaka’s small roster (23 players Tuesday), Hunt and Taylor will likely be on the field somewhere every play.

“Micah’s … got speed and agility and makes people miss,” McKinney said. “If Micah’s not at quarterback he may be at tailback, he may be at wide receiver. Austin may be at quarterback, he may be at running back and he may be at receiver.”

Hunt also plays defensive back and returns kicks.

“I’ll pretty much run any position where coach puts me,” Hunt said. “I’m one of the more speedier players on the team. Plus, I know how to take a hit, I know how to give a hit and I know how to make a move on somebody.”

Hunt knows passing won’t be the primary option when he’s calling signals.

“A lot of read options and a bunch of crazy handoffs and everything,” he said with a smile. “He (Austin) is a better passer than I am. I’m not really used to throwing. I’m used to running.”

McKinney has holes to fill at the skill positions, where Austin Anderson, Taylor Edwards and Jamie Erickson have departed. But a big, experienced line should help buy time for newcomers.

Taylor and Hunt both spoke with conviction about the offensive line. Left guard Jonathan Rounds (6-foot-1, 215) and right guard Joe Oliver (6-3, 240) headline an impressive quartet that includes center Joe Pate (5-10, 220) and left tackle Travis Overdorf (6-5, 245).

“They’re strong,” Hunt said, “and I know they’ll keep a good front for us.”

Unaka might have a starter in name only at quarterback.

“Hopefully after our scrimmage Friday, we can determine who’ll be the starter,” McKinney said. “Right now, they’re pretty much even. But anyway we go, both of them’s still gonna be on the field.

“That’s the good thing about it. They’re two of our better athletes. … They’re two guys we’re depending on to help us a lot on both sides of the football.”

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