MAHOMET — It might only be May, but Jon Adkins and the Mahomet-Seymour coaching staff are hard at work trying to rebuild their program.
Here’s a way-too-early look at what the Bulldogs could bring to the football field in 2020.
2019 recap: The Bulldogs finished 4-5 in Jon Adkins’ first year at the helm of the Mahomet-Seymour program. Four of the first five games on the docket were an absolute bear and the Bulldogs lost all four of them. A 13-6 loss to a rebuilding Lincoln team proved to be the reason why the Bulldogs didn’t make the playoffs. Basically, the schedule was simple. Four games were against really good teams. If M-S wanted to make the playoffs, they had to go 5-0 in the rest of the games. They went 4-1.
Senior who they will miss most: Carson Thomas was a game-changing defensive back. Noah Crowley and Jack Koller were starting wideouts. JT Murphy, Seth Buchanan, Gavin O’Dell and Harrison Lacour were staples in the trenches. Linebackers CJ McKinney and Dallas Carnell were big-hitters. But the senior that will be the hardest to replace is Costen Campion. He was the Bulldogs’ most disruptive defensive lineman, and he was in the backfield basically every other play. M-S will need to find another consistent pass-rusher, so they don’t have to dial up a blitz every time they want to generate disruption.
Host of returners: The Bulldogs’ running game really was the best part of the whole offense last year. And Adkins and his staff should be fired up because their three leading rushers are all coming back next year. Clay Hubble finished his junior season with exactly 1,001 yards of total offense. Hubble was the top rusher with 653 total yards and four touchdowns. He added 22 catches for 348 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Braden Finch teamed up with Hubble to rush for 1,193 yards and nine touchdowns last fall. The duo averaged 132.5 rushing yards per game together. Then, Mitchell Gallier showcased that he might need even more touches next year. Defensively, leading tackler Skyler Yancy will be back. Along with top defenders Hayden Nelson, Colton Morris and Gage Granadino. With so many starters coming back and a talented crop of youngsters knocking on the door for playing time, M-S has every opportunity for a breakout 2020 season.
An underclassman you should watch out for: Valient Walsh. Walsh has been a weight room warrior and he made some big-time plays last year as a freshman. Walsh didn’t play a lot at the varsity level because there were so many senior wideouts, but he was a big reason the Bulldogs junior varsity team was 6-3 and the freshman team went 8-1. Walsh is an electric kick returner and slot receiver. He plays with physicality and toughness. Plus, he delivered some huge hits at safety. Walsh will undoubtedly get his time to shine sooner rather than later. Ryan Yancy is another youngster who could see varsity time next year too.
Door opening in the Apollo Conference? Effingham is losing quarterback Nathan Shackelford and record-breaking wide receiver Tristin Duncan. Mt. Zion lost manchild running back Sage Davis. And Taylorville finished the 2019 season on a 0-5 tailspin. There’s a real opportunity for the Bulldogs to make a jump up the Apollo Conference standings.
Final word: Continuity is everything. Everyone should be on the same page now that Adkins is in his second year. To be blunt, M-S made way too many mistakes in 2019. They didn’t look like a playoff team. The turnovers hurt. The defense gave up way too many big plays. And the penalties had the M-S coaching staff ripping their hair out. That has to change in 2020 if M-S wants to reach their full potential. It should certainly help that the terminology isn’t something foreign now. They’re all on the same page. The Bulldogs won four games in 2019 in a super top-heavy Apollo Conference. Now, there’s an opportunity for a team to come up and take that top spot.