Middle Tennessee Christian School first-year football coach B.J. Robertson got an opportunity he wasn't expecting.
Fred Shambaugh resigned his post in the offseason and took a position at Dallas Christian, allowing Robertson to take over the Cougar program as an interim coach.
"I'm excited for the opportunity to serve as the leader of our football program this fall," Robertson said upon being named the interim coach. "I have been blessed to be part of the MTCS family for the last three years and am honored that (MTCS President) Mr. (Matt) Tiller and (Principal) Dr. (Robert) Sain have put their trust in me to continue building a culture of excellence on the field, in the classroom and in our community."
Robertson is a 2013 graduate from Bethel where he played quarterback. He was an assistant coach three seasons at Huntland.
"It's been a pretty smooth transition," Robertson said. "Most of the kids we've got were here before. I just stepped into fill a hole and a got staff hired pretty quickly."
Despite losing Shambaugh and Mr. Football winner Kemari McGowan, MTCS is entering the season with high expectations.
"We expect to make the playoffs; that's my expectations for the team," Robertson said. "We're super excited to start on time. I wish we could have a scrimmage, but if we can’t have one but have a season you just roll with it."
McGowan rushed for more than 2,000 yards last season, but the Cougars still return two dependable backs in Drew Lusk and Trey Harris. Hayes Watson also will get carries.
"Lusk, Harris and Watson are good downhill runners," Robertson said. "They got carries last year, but obviously not as many as Kemari. I think we'll bring an element that we haven't had in running the ball and throwing the ball."
The passing game is expected to improve in part with the addition of junior Aiden Hooper, a Lighthouse Christian transfer.
"He's looked really good but without having defenders in front of him," Robertson said. "It's not 100 percent known right now, but he spins it well and throws it well. We've got several guys out from basketball that haven't played who can run and catch."
Seniors Jonathan Burns, Hunter Harris, Jagger Goins and freshman Eli Wilson should be Hooper's top targets.
The offensive line also should be a strength with junior Aleric Watson, senior Kallen Adkinson, senior Sam Busbey, junior David Cary, junior Blake Bolin and senior Houston Batey.
"I really feel good about our offense," Robertson said. "We got a good group that works hard and has a lot of ability."
MTCS will be looking to improve on the defensive side of the ball, which allowed more than 28 points last season.
Experience should be a plus, particularly up front and at linebacker.
Watson should be one of the best defensive line in MTCS’ region and Adkinson, Watson, Bolin and Batey make up a physical and talented group.
The linebackers are also talented and proven.
Nelson, Busbey and Goins will rotate at outside linebacker, while Cary, Harris and Lusk will rotate at inside linebacker.
"I'm going to call the offense and Craig Harris is going to call the defense for the most part," Robertson said. "I think our front six are probably as strong as we've had since I've been here. We're going to be pretty tough up front."
Senior Jonathan Burns, junior Blake Moore, junior Baylor Norwood, senior Hunter Harris and Wilson will lead the secondary.
"We do have some defensive backs that we're going to rely on and it's their first year," Robertson said. "I wouldn't say I'm worried about it. They're big and tough kids and I think we'll be fine in that area."
QB: Aiden Hooper (Jr.)
RB: Drew Lusk (Sr.), Trey Harris (Sr.)
WR: Jonathan Burns (Sr.), Hunter Harris (Sr.), Eli Wilson (Fr.), Jagger Goins (Sr.)
OL: Aleric Watson (Jr.), Kallen Adkinson (Sr.), Sam Busbey (Sr.), David Cary (Jr.), Blake Bolin (Jr.), Houston Batey (Sr.)
DL: Kallen Adkinson (Sr.), Aleric Watson (Jr.), Hayes Watson (Jr.), Blake Bolin (Jr.), Houston Batey (Sr.)
OLB: Aiden Nelson (Sr.), Sam Busbey (Sr.), Jagger Goins (Sr.)
ILB: David Cary (Jr.), Trey Harris (Sr.), Drew Lusk (Sr.)
DB: Jonathan Burns (Sr.), Blake Moore (Jr.), Eli Wilson (Fr.), Baylor Norwood (Jr.), Hunter Harris (Sr.)
K/P: Hunter Harris (Sr.) or Eli Wilson (Fr.)
8/21: at White House Heritage
8/28: Friendship Christian
9/4: at Howard
9/11: at DCA
9/18: Grace Baptist-Chattanooga
10/2: at Kings Academy
10/16: Grace Christian-Franklin
10/23: at Mt. Juliet Christian
10/30: at Webb School