John Tyler carried an uncomfortable and unusual weight into the offseason. For the first time since 2008, the Lions failed to reach at least the state quarterfinals and lost their first opening-round playoff game since 2006.

The step back in performance wasn't altogether unexpected following the graduation of a talented 2013 class that included quarterback Greg Ward (Houston), receivers Fred Ross (MIssissippi State, Justice Liggins (SFA) and Darrion Flowers (Sam Houston State) and defensive end Tyus Bowser (Houston).

John Tyler DT Braylon Jones. (Christopher R. Vinn,

John Tyler still came within a two-point conversion of winning a district title last season and returns the bulk of its playmakers from last season.

Senior quarterback Geovari McCollister passed for more than 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns and ran for a team-best 852 yards and 10 TDs a season ago. JT's top three receivers -- Nick Cain, Rodney Bendy and Duntayvion Gross -- are back after the trio combined for 1,769 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2013.

Jeremy Wilson, one of the fastest players in all of East Texas, returns to the field as well after the senior speedster combined for 829 yards of offense and 10 touchdowns on just 63 touches.

Defensively, JT will be led up front by junior defensive tackle Braylon Jones, who will be one of East Texas' top overall recruits in the 2016. Jones, last season's Defensive Newcomer of the Year, will be joined by senior defensive end Jassavia Reese, who has the tools to dominate as a pass-rusher.

Senior Jaylon Reese anchors the linebacking corps, while senior cornerback and Purdue commit Isaac Warren is one of the most physical defenders in the area -- regardless of position.

The road to success won't be easy for John Tyler, which plays Plano, Longview and Tyler Lee in non-district before embarking on a brutal District 16-5A campaign that features games against Ennis, Lufkin, Whitehouse and Nacogdoches.

2014 John Tyler Lions Schedule

Aug. 29PlanoW 30-12
Sept. 5at LongviewW 41-25
Sept. 12Tyler LeeL 37-31
Sept. 19OPEN
Sept. 26*at WhitehouseW 52-17
Oct. 3*LindaleW 76-13
Oct. 10*LufkinW 26-24
Oct. 17*at EnnisL 30-27
Oct. 24*CorsicanaW 33-3
Oct. 31*at JacksonvilleW 62-7
Nov. 7*NacogdochesW 44-14
Nov. 14vs. Texas High (at Longview)W 58-23
Nov. 21vs. Mansfield Summit (at Rockwall)W 44-27
Nov. 28vs. Rockwall-Heath (at Waco)W 49-21
Dec. 5vs. McKinney North (at Denton)W 64-40
Dec. 13vs. Aledo (at Mesquite)L 44-14 Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll