L.C. Bird finished last season 9-3, beating Glen Allen in the first round of the region 5B playoffs in coach Troy Taylor’s first year at the helm.
The Skyhawks sent three student athletes to play college football at the next level, including one of the area’s biggest recruits in wide receiver, defensive back and athlete Jaden Payoute, who’ll play for Virginia Tech. Defensive back Mykey Anderson and offensive lineman Demarkus Dancy are headed to attend class and play football at UVA Wise.
This offseason, Taylor navigated the winds of change as the hiring of former L.C. Bird coach David Bedwell at Hermitage caused some movement on his coaching staff, as some members joined the three-time state championship winner as a member the Panthers.
“We have a lot of new faces on the coaching staff this year,” Taylor said. “It’s still Bird football and we are ready to get going,” he continued. “My staff has done a great job in practice and we’ve had some of the younger coaches step up into bigger roles. We are ready.”
The roster is highlighted by several college prospects including running back Ramon Brown (Virginia Tech, Maryland offers, among others), defensive linemen and tight end Tyson Pledger (Delaware State offer), linebacker and running back Chris Barfield (two Ivy League offers) Quentin Elliott, the younger brother of Jalen Elliott, who’s been named a team captain for his senior year at Notre Dame, as well as Elijah Rivers.
The aforementioned group will serve as Taylor’s senior leaders during the 2019 campaign for what will be a young offense and a tough defense.
Quarterbacks: A transfer from Meadowbrook, Xavier Gordon is in the mix at quarterback. Jordan Smith, last year’s junior varsity quarterback is also a possibility along with K.V. Miles, a dual-threat athlete that can run and throw the ball. Taylor said that all three are getting snaps early on, and he’ll go with the signal caller that moves the ball the best.
Running backs: The backfield is highlighted by the return of Ramon Brown, a sophomore that has a decorated freshman year. The speedster rushed for 631 yards during the 2018 season behind Tre Mason, who finished the year with 1,860 yards and 15 touchdowns. Mason, however, has transferred to Life Christian Academy. In the absence of Mason, Barfield, who carried the football last season could be due to receive a big uptick in touches in 2019. Taylor said there were also a few younger players in the mix, fighting to earn carries. It’s no secret that L.C. Bird likes to run the football, and even with the subtraction of Mason, there are two Division I athletes that will be toting the pigskin this year.
Wide Receivers: Elijah Rivers and Jalen Gregory highlight this unit as a returning starters. Rivers is a senior and has the athleticism to make plays and potentially earn a scholarship somewhere. Quentin Elliott plays in the slot for L.C. Bird and is an ultra-athletic weapon that could pay dividends for the Skyhawks when they want to move away from the run.
Offensive Line: Perhaps the biggest challenge for Taylor in his second year will be overhauling a line that will be paramount to the team’s success. The talent is there, and Matt Bland, one of the most highly regarded offensive line coaches in the area is on Taylor’s staff. “We try to keep it simple,” Taylor said. “People generally know L.C. Bird is going to do on offense- run the football,” he continued. “So these guys learning their jobs should be easy.” Taylor has some sie on the line with Keyshawn Williams (6-2, 270) and K.J. Irvin (6-2, 270). Bryce Vinson will be a factor at (6-2, 240) and Savion Parham fits the mold of a beloved player in L.C. Bird’s program, Josey Davis. At (5-9, 170) he’s a smaller linemen but his strength (he’s on the wrestling team as well) and quickness will both be valuable assets.
Defensive Linemen: Tyson Pledger, a Division I athlete, will play both ways on the line. A big, athletic frame and above average strength should allow him to stop the run and rush the pass easily. Taylor was excited about Chris Trinidad in this unit as well. Tall and long at 6-4, Trinidad will continue to fill out his currently 200 pound frame and cold develop into a top player. At tackle, Khali Carter has returned from a broken leg last season, and is expected to provide excellent play.
Linebackers: When you think of L.C. Bird linebackers, you think of Rayshard Ashby (Virginia Tech) and Isaiah Moore (North Carolina State). Mike Allen has drawn his own comparisons to the duo despite this youth as a sophomore. He started every game of the 2018 season as a freshman and is poised to take on a leadership role, like his predecessors at an early age. Dom Gray, a senior started every game last season and returns. Jaden Casey has impressed early in practice and could play a role. Chris Barfield, who plays strong safety is often found stacking the box along with the linebackers.
Defensive Backs: Quentin Elliott, Elijah Rivers and Jordan Bentley are all returning starters on what may be the team’s most experienced defensive unit. Basketball standout and point guard Tyler Henderson will suit up for the football team this fall and winter, following in the footsteps of others such as Pinky Wiley as dual sport athletes. Justice Eaton and J.T. Taylor represent interesting depth pieces for Taylor. Eaton started a few games as a freshman, but didn’t play last year and is back for his junior season. J.T. is a transfer from Life Christian that is capable of playing multiple positions.
Special teams: Junior Davis will handle the kicking duties while Quentin Elliott will punt the football as needed.