WEST POINT, Miss.,- While a first round playoff appearance would be considered a good year at most schools it simply is not acceptable at West Point.
The Green Wave went 8-3 in 2008 but had their season come to an abrupt halt after being shutout 13-0 by Lafayette County in the opening round of the Class 4A State Playoffs.
The season began strong for West Point opening up with a bang outscoring their first four opponents 118-33 with Mississippi State commitment Michael Carr at quarterback. But the 6-foot-1, 192-pounder suffered a season-ending ankle injury leaving the Green Wave with a void under center for the rest of the year.
"Last year we didn't have a contingency plan if Mike got hurt at quarterback," said West Point head coach Chris Chambless. "This year we have two quarterbacks ready to go and we are going to be able to use Mike at wideout, defensive back and returning kicks and punts. His presence on the field in other areas we feel like is going to be more valuable than just behind center."
Carr thrived in that role as a sophomore averaging 24.3 yards per touch. Carr hauled in 12 passes in 2007 for 463 yards and four touchdowns averaging an astonishing 38.5 yards per catch.
"It's going to be dynamic," Carr said of his move back to receiver. "I feel real comfortable out there. With my athletic ability I don't need to be a quarterback. I've got great hands and can catch the ball so I will be more comfortable out there playing receiver."
The three-star rated recruit by Rivals.com will also take back over his role at cornerback where he started his freshman and sophomore seasons for the Green Wave. During those two seasons in the secondary, Carr recorded 94 tackles, 48 assists, 22 pass breakups, 10 interceptions, two fumble recoveries, one sack, a defensive touchdown and a safety.
Carr also had 472 return yards and two more touchdowns with 321 kickoff return yards on 12 attempts and a touchdown and 151 punt return yards on eight returns and a score earning first team all-state as a sophomore.
But Carr is not the only Green Wave player that will headed to Mississippi State in 2010. Curtis Virges (6-3, 290) has also given his verbal pledge to the Bulldogs as a defensive tackle but will go both ways this season for West Point.
"We wanted him to drop some weight and he's dropped the weight," Chambless said. "He's worked extremely hard this summer. You are never going to get in game shape until you play games but we are hoping we are going in the right direction with him going both ways."
Chambless took over as head coach of the Green Wave in 2006 leaving this crop of seniors to come through his program as freshmen. He has been pleased with the leadership that they provide.
"You always want that senior leadership on your team," Chambless said. "This year's bunch is certainly positive. I'm proud of them and I look for it to carry over into the season. You've got guys like Michael Carr, Curtis Virges, Jeremy Cannon, Xavier Hogan and whole slough of them that try to lead in the right way. It rubs off on the younger guys and they lead by example with their work ethic."
With Carr's injury last season, Cedric Burns took over as West Point's signal caller and will return in 2009. He suffered a knee injury in the spring providing an opportunity for Justin Cox to get some reps. Chambless plans on using both quarterbacks throughout the year.
"The quarterbacks that we've got, Justin Cox and Cedric Burns, they are not going to do anything to hurt you," Chambless said. "They both have good leadership qualities and are going to run the offense. We preach no turnovers and no interceptions but if they make mistakes both of them get back in there like it never bothered them. That's a plus that we have with them."
But despite having two capable quarterbacks and a deep threat like Carr, the Green Wave will not get away from their forte of running the football in a power formation.
"Xavier Hogan and LaKenderic Thomas are both strong and love to run," Chambless said. "They run very hard to tackle and have great vision. We've got good balance. We feel just as good giving it to one as we do the other. We will have both of them on the field at the same time so we feel like we can get a yard when we need it."
One area that should be improved from last season is along the offensive line. West Point had to replace all five starters in 2008 but have four coming back this year.
"We've got most of our offensive line coming back from last year," Chambless said. "We feel like we've done nothing but get bigger and stronger. We feel like we will be better up from but we've still got to play the games."
The Green Wave will move up to Class 5A this season and open the campaign Aug. 21 on the road at Shannon.