Coach: Luke Hyatt, fourth season at Piedmont (39-67 overall)
2017 Record: 3-8, 1-6 in Southern Carolinas 3A
Returning Starters: Offense, 5: Defense, 6
The Panthers are 1-11 in conference play and went 3-8 both of the past two years. They haven’t had a winning year since 2013 and graduated a lot of talent. We have to see what they’ll do with a clean slate in a very tough conference top to bottom.
Six-foot-six senior Reece McManus and junior Clint Danielson are battling for quarterback with neither having completed a high school pass.
Connor Purser shined in a backup role, but he will be the main ball carrier along with fellow juniors Brooks Gsell and Troy Hagin.
The Panthers had a 4:1 run-to-pass ratio last season, but tight end Nic Fincher, Purser and receiver Kyle Pressley showed flashes. Brandon Shillingberg and Jackson Little will get their chances in the passing game, as well.
Up front, Colby Williams, Charley Price, Wyatt Brown, Jacob King and Dylan Mackey will start.
Linebacker James Price is the team’s leading returning tackler and will team with Caleb Miller, Kenneth Austin, Palmer Turner, Shillingberg and Hagin.
Up front, Mackey is a force at one tackle, and Murphy led the team in sacks and recorded 40 tackles last year at one end. Tim Purcell, Quinton Yard, Colby Caskey and Trent Faulkner will sub in at the other spots.
Gsell started as a sophomore and is back at corner along with Kyle Pressley.
Austin Merritt slides in at safety along with Alex Braswell, but Mark Willis and Anthony Smith will see plenty of time in the secondary
Senior Christian McDoungh will handle all of the kicking duties. Gsell, Purser and Hagin are the likely candidates to handle the returns.