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Some players have big shoes to fill this season

Some players have big shoes to fill this season

Brandon Pearson

Brandon Pearson

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Chris Ellis

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Jeremiah Kirkland

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Justin Elim

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Mario Atkinson

Most coaches would be content to have players who are not replaceable. However, if their teams are to have another successful season, someone has to step up and fill the hole. Several talented players graduated, leaving their teams with a big void. Clayton News Daily sports editor Derrick Mahone takes a look at the five players that have the biggest shoes to fill this season.

Mario Atkinson

School: Jonesboro

Position: Quarterback

Who he’s replacing: Cameron Sutton

Where is Sutton: The multiple sport standout is on football scholarship at Tennessee.

What Sutton did in 2012: Not all his accomplishments can be measured by his stats. Sutton was a threat on offense, commanding the attention of double coverage. He was also a standout on the special teams as a returner. He accounted for 1,396 all-purpose yards and 19 touchdowns.

What is expected of Atkinson: In his first season as the starting quarterback last year, Atkinson passed for 2,030 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 207 yards. Not only will the senior play the quarterback position, he will also line up in other positions in the offense. He will be counted on some on the defense as well.

Jeremiah Kirkland

School: Lovejoy

Position: Running back

Who he’s replacing: Travis Custis

Where is Custis now: Signed to play at Georgia Tech, but will enroll in January.

What did Custis do in 2012: Led the county in rushing with 2,118 yards and 35 touchdowns as the Wildcats reached the Class AAAAAA finals. He graduated as the school’s all-time leading rusher.

What is expected of Kirkland: As a junior at Class A Landmark Christian, Kirkland rushed for 2,052 yards and 27 touchdowns. He will be running behind an experienced line, which might be one of the strengths of this year’s team. With the Wildcats breaking in an inexperienced quarterback, Kirkland will need a big year.

Brandon Pearson

School: Drew

Position: Quarterback

Who he’s replacing: Jay Murray

Where is Murray now: He signed to play for Benedict College in South Carolina.

What did Murray do in 2012: He made first team all-region and passed for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns.

What is expected of Pearson: Being the quarterback, Pearson must be a leader on and off the field for a Drew team trying to get back into the playoffs. The senior is bigger than his predecessor, but has had limited playing time over the last two years. A big season by Pearson could not only net the Titans a playoff spot, but also increase his scholarship offerings. Last season in a backup role, Pearson passed for 111 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 61 yards and one touchdown. He is also a standout on the baseball team at first base.

Justin Elim

School: Riverdale

Position: Linebacker

Who he’s replacing: Troy Wyche

Where is Wyche now: He is playing at Arkansas State.

What Wyche did in 2012: Was one of the top defensive players in the county. Was named to the all-state team after helping the Raiders to the postseason. Led team with 135 tackles and 18 tackles for loss.

What is expected of Elim: He is physically similar to Wyche and has good speed. Has made the switch from the defensive end position to the middle linebacker spot. Has chance to play on the next level with a good showing this season.

Chris Ellis

School: Lovejoy

What position: Nose tackle

Who he’s replacing: Nathaniel Norwood

Where is Norwood now: On scholarship at Appalachian State.

What did Norwood do in 2012: Was named the Class AAAAAA Defensive Player of the Year after helping the Wildcats to a state runner-up finish. Had 123.5 tackles, 41 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks.

What is expected of Ellis: Coach Al Hughes says that Ellis and Norwood are very similar, and that a drop off is not expected. Ellis got plenty of playing time last season. Last year, Ellis had 50.5 tackles with 16 tackles for loss and five sacks. Those numbers are expected to increase with more playing time.