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Golden Eagle cupboard not exactly bare for 2006 football campaign

Tyrone\’s football class of 2007 has a lot going for it, but it is also entering waters uncharted under John Franco.
On the one hand, the group is big, if only in terms of numbers. If the class remains intact next season, the Eagles will field 20 seniors in 2006, and Franco feels there\’s a unique dynamic at work for a senior class that large.
The unit is also experienced and talented. Four of its members earned MAC Nittany Division all-star spots last season, while 300-pound defensive tackle Tyler Hoover was named to the Associated Press Pennsylvania Class AA first team.
But on the other hand, the group differs from its predecessors because it\’s difficult to gauge the success it may or may not attain based on prior accomplishment. When the group was in ninth grade, two key components – Morrow and Hoover – were playing for the varsity team, and it has yet to have stood on its own.
However, the time when the class of 2007 is called on to be solely accountable for Tyrone\’s football fortunes is quickly approaching, and Franco is excited to see what the group can do.
“When you have a lot of seniors, you see an unusual level of dedication and commitment,” Franco said. “You find a lot of players who may have never made an impact before who do when they\’re seniors because they want to end their careers on a strong note.”
The Eagles will need more than a few of those types of performances if for no other reason than to replace what they\’re losing from the class of 2006. Along with record-setting quarterback Leonard Wilson and 1,000-yard rusher Brinton Mingle, Tyrone graduates Shane Barr, Trey Brockett and Buddy Stotler, three players who combined for over 800 yards in total offense, nine touchdowns and 107 points.
And replacing what those players did statistically will be easier than replacing what they did in terms of leadership, said Franco.
“Tyler Hoover, Tyler Gillmen and Doug Morrow were good leaders as juniors,” Franco said. “I\’m really looking for them to take the reigns of leadership for this team.”
Gillmen was a first-team All-Nittany Division running back after gaining 419 yards rushing and 165 receiving last season, while Morrow caught 15 passes for 177 yards.
Hoover is the gem of the bunch after being named a MAC two-way all-star and registering 14 tackles for loss. He\’s as strong a Division I recruit as Tyrone has had in decades, and Franco would like to see him reach his full potential.
“Tyler Hoover\’s biggest obstacle will be Tyler Hoover,” he said. “He could be one of the great talents this area has seen in the last 10 to 15 years, but he\’s just scratched the surface. He doesn\’t realize how good he can be. He\’s shown me a lot by going out for basketball and with his offseason conditioning, but he\’s still not as good as he can be.\”
With an overachieving Hoover anchoring the offensive line, Tyrone\’s running game in 2006 could be very good. He\’ll be joined on the left side by James Updike at guard, while Josh Wright returns with experience at center. Morrow and Donnie Conrad are both experienced and physical tight ends, and lineman Bo Latchford – a starter early in 2005 – will be back after missing seven games his junior season with an ankle injury.
Joining Gillmen in the backfield will be sophomore Johnny Franco (495 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns), and quarterback Tyler Golden, who has waited two seasons behind Wilson to get his opportunity.
“Tyler and Johnny give us a couple of running backs who can catch the ball, who are good blockers and good runners, and in a pinch they can even play quarterback,” said Franco.
Defensively, Tyrone\’s class of 2007 will be counted on heavily as well, and so too will several younger players who saw significant action in 2005.
Freshman Ethan Etters and sophomore Shane Emigh were regulars in the secondary by the end of last season, while Morrow (DE), Hoover (DT), Gillmen (LB) and Updike (LB) all return as all-conference performers at their positions.
“Etters and Emigh should be leaders in replacing an outstanding secondary, and middle linebacker, without Mingle, will be difficult to fill,” said Franco. “There\’s nobody we can say we\’ll just plug in.”
Johnny Franco – an all-conference DB last season – will also bolster the defense.