By Ray Hamill — College of the Redwoods football will begin official preseason practice on Aug. 7 with big expectations surrounding a team that pleasantly surprised on its return to competition in 2022.
Last year’s team featured mostly freshmen, with just one sophomore on the entire roster, and most of those players are back and eager to take the next step.
The numbers are also up, with a very healthy squad of 90 players showing up for the summer workouts.
“It’s so much different this year because we have experience,” said head coach Jason White, whose team was 7-4 a year ago. “At this point last year, nobody really knew much. It was a huge learning curve. But now we have sophomores who can guide and help guys, and that’s going to make us so much better this year.”
That experience includes quarterback Max Hough, who enjoyed a breakout campaign last fall after taking over as the starter midway through the season.
The former Fortuna Husky grew in stature as the season progressed and will be expected to pick up just where he left off when the Corsairs kick off the new season at home to Merced in early September.
Hough is one of five QBs on the roster, a group that also includes former Arcata Tiger Shane Purcell, who returns to the area after playing at Contra Costa College last year.
Purcell was outstanding as a senior at Arcata High and could push Hough for playing time, although the latter is expected to build on his performances from 2022, when he was one of the top QBs in the American Pacific-7 Conference.
“Max has got a lot of experience, and that’s going to be in his favor this year,” White said.
Purcell’s Arcata High and Contra Costa teammate Carson Tucker also returns to the area and will join a good receiving corps that also includes returning standouts Jaydon Burns and Donte Hurt.
Former Hoopa Warrior Carlos Aguilar also will play receiver for the Corsairs this fall and is expected to play a key role after an impressive showing during the summer workouts.
The offensive backfield also looks solid and will be “very similar to what it was last year,” according to White.
Back are Levi Cox-Cooley, Levi Nyberg, Tyrus Arakawa and Emmanuel Igbonagwam, the latter of whom showed plenty of improvement down the stretch of last season and “played really well in the bowl game,” according to his coach.
Former Eureka Logger Antorious Bell also joins the team this year and will give the unit some more depth.
The offensive line, however, will look very different this year with four new starters and Fotuna’s Joey Quen the lone returner at right tackle.
However, the unit is expected to be an upgrade.
“We’re going to have at least four new starters on the offensive line this year,” the head coach said. “But we’re going to have a lot more size and I feel good about it, that these guys can pick everything up. We’ll be good up front, but there’s a lot of work to do. The offensive line is not easy.”
One big loss for the offense will be tight end Kaleb Price, who was the team’s most dynamic weapon on that side of the ball last year.
Price will red-shirt as he continues to recover from a knee injury he suffered in the final game of 2022.
Next week, we’ll take a look at what to expect from a CR defense that should be experienced and deep.