MAHOMET — Jon Adkins is leading Mahomet-Seymour through their summer workouts as they prepare for the upcoming season. Believe it or not, the season opener is a short seven weeks away. It’s a season of change for M-S football, and there are plenty of questions that will need to be answered. The first five games on the M-S schedule are brutal. All five teams made the playoffs last year, and the Bulldogs will have to go at least 1-4 during that stretch if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Here are five questions that will need to be answered this summer before the season gets started.
Without top contributors, can the Mahomet-Seymour defense take a step forward?
So often, the focus is solely on the offense. Adkins’ up-tempo scheme could provide more fireworks at Frank Dutton Field this fall. New quarterback Braden Finch will be a big storyline as well. But the M-S defense struggled at times in 2018, and they’re losing two of their best players. Connor Thomason was one of the top safeties in the area last year, notching eight interceptions. Linebacker Daunte Roberts was the leading tackler for the Bulldogs and was all over the field. They’re both at McKendree University now.
Brett Roberts was the defensive coordinator last year, but he wasn’t retained by Adkins after Keith Pogue resigned. Roberts had played an instrumental role in developing a lot of the young talent and that could be a big loss. Michael Burner will take over as defensive coordinator this year, and he’ll be leaning on junior defensive end Zach Travis to have a monster season.
Is Braden Finch ready for the starting quarterback gig?
Watch Braden Finch on the basketball court, and you’ll see how much confidence he plays with. He wasn’t scared of anyone, despite being just a sophomore. If he has that confidence on the football field, then that will be a great leader for the offense. The junior quarterback seems like he’s ready to roll and ready to be the leader.
But it’s easy to be confident during the offseason when the win-loss record is clean. Finch has a big arm and is a great athlete. He’s been waiting in the wings behind his older brother Dawson.
Will the offensive line be ready to roll?
The M-S offensive line struggled throughout most of last season, and they’re losing three starters in Jarod Priest, Mo Mendenhall and Kyle Kinney. It’ll be up to J.T Murphy, Costen Campion, Gavin O’Dell and Kurtis Gilonske to step up and be ready to play at a high level. O’Dell has a massive frame and good athleticism. Murphy, Campion and Gilonske all have the tools to get the job done. They’ll need to find one more offensive lineman this summer and hope the top five can stay healthy because the depth just isn’t a strength yet.
Can Clay Hubble handle being the No. 1 option on the scouting report?
Clay Hubble kind of snuck up on people last year. As a sophomore, Hubble was the third running back on the team behind Jordan Veldman and Dylan Gates, so teams might not have paid much attention to him at first. That didn’t last long. As Hubble sliced and diced through defenses to the tune of 544 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, teams started to take him very seriously. Now that Veldman and Gates are both gone, Hubble will have to shoulder a lot of responsibility. Adkins believes his junior tailback will be ready.
Will new regime lead to more success on field?
There’s always optimism around a program when a new coach comes in. When Adkins replaced Pogue, there have been vibes that things have changed. A 3-6 season just isn’t good enough for M-S. Not when the Bulldogs had made the playoffs in 15 of the 16 prior seasons. Adkins came to M-S because he believed he could turn it around. His career record (17-56) isn’t anything to write home about, but you could make a strong case that Adkins has never coached at a program with as much success as M-S. Can he make it work? We’ll find out soon enough.