Newton Eagles Will Be Loaded in the Backfield in 2012
Last season the Newton Eagles scored an average of 44 points per game. The same is expected this season as they return more than half of their offense.
Headlining that group, after accounting for more than 3,000 total yards in 2011, are D.J. Dean, Kevin Shorter and Brandon Johnson.
Dean, a Utah commit who accounted for 1,952 total yards and 23 touchdowns a season ago, returns at quarterback. While putting up good numbers, it was still a learning curve for Dean, according to Newton coach W.T. Johnson.
“Last year was a growing thing for him,” Coach Johnson said. “It was the first year he really had played quarterback at the varsity level. We did some different things than when coach (Curtis) Barbay was here. We did that to prepare him for this year because we knew we would have a pretty good chance to be pretty good this year.”
Entering his senior year, Dean holds 13 offers from FBS and FCS schools.
“He’s just a football player,” Coach Johnson added. “He has been around Newton football as long as I can remember. When I first came in, in 1991, he was our ball boy.”
Shorter, a 6-1, 185 pound junior running back, brings a run-catch threat to the table.
“We will split Kevin out wide,” the Newton coach said. “We’ll throw the ball to him out of the backfield.”
Shorter, who rushed for 1,250 yards and 20 total touchdowns a season ago, was one of the first freshmen to ever play on varsity at Newton, according to Coach Johnson.
“He’s a great running back for us but what he can really do is play free safety for anyone in the country,” the coach said. “TCU, Houston, Oklahoma, A&M, those types of schools have been in here showing interest in him, wanting film on him.”
The sleeper of the group, according to Coach Johnson, is junior Brandon Johnson. The 173-pound running back is a “hard and shifty runner that’s hard for one guy to bring down.”
"He can do a lot of things," Coach Johnson said. "He just doesn’t get the recognition the others get. He could have been a 2,000-yard back, but he wasn’t because we have so many kids that carry the ball.”
Coach Johnson went on to say: “He’s a really strong kid. He squatted 600 pounds last year and that was at the state meet so you know it’s a legit squat.”
Brandon Johnson rushed for 1,150 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
“As far as those three go, any of those kids can score at any time," the Newton coach said. “They can all catch the ball. They can run through you or around you.”
While Dean, Shorter and Brandon Johnson headline the Eagles’ backfield, they aren’t the only weapons at Coach Johnson’s disposal.
“It’s just not those kids,” Coach Johnson said. “We have about five kids that can play back there.”
Johnson said junior running backs Anthony Hadnot and Troy Peagues as well as sophomores Jace Thomas and Caleb Foster will see some time this year running the ball.
“All these kids are strong kids for their age,” the coach said. “Most these kids are powerlifters. We got some really unselfish kids. They know one kid isn’t going to get 25 carries while another gets five. It’s not going to happen like that. It never happened like that here.”