TAMPA — Middleton first-year coach Jeff George Jr. said he knew he had some big tasks ahead of him when he took control of a Tigers program that has won only four games during the past three seasons.
George is looking to instill an attitude about the future and a love for the program.
For help in this cause, he doesn’t have to look far.
“I’m trying to lead (the team) so the sophomores and freshmen have a good year, so the next year they are even better,” senior Tavaris Mutcherson said. “If we don’t work on what we’ve done in the past, then that is going to look bad for years and years and years.
“We want to make ourselves and the team look good.”
It’s no wonder George looks to the 6-foot-1, 196-pound defensive lineman as one of his biggest assets.
“He is a coach’s player,” George said. “He is the guy every coach loves to have on his field. He comes to work, never complains, understands the vision and shows up every day to show everyone he wants to be in the game.”
Mutcherson said he feels responsible to his team and that his role is bigger than just trying for a sack or to tip a pass.
“Leadership is something I feel I need to provide,” Mutcherson said. “It means no matter how bad my team is feeling, I have to pick them up.”
Mutcherson doesn’t have the typical size for a defensive lineman, but George said his talent, tenacity and speed put him on a different level in disrupting opposing offenses.
“He will rush the edge and is an attack-style rusher,” George said. “And honestly, I think he is the best in the business.”
Middleton’s offense will need to grow in a hurry, and fortunately it has a lot of size up front. Center Justo Polanco (6-foot-3, 295 pounds), right tackle Johntavious Walker (6-4, 240) and left tackle Jajuan Stewart (6-3, 290) give the offense the size up front for first-year quarterback Mike Edoga. Coach Jeff George Jr. said Edoga is “a guy who can do it all” and isn’t afraid of contact.
There is no set offense as George said he will adapt to what his players give him.
“I adapt to what my players can do,” George said. “I don’t have a set offense. I’m going to see what they get and adapt to that. We’ll have some spread, we’ll have some I-formation and our ability will set what we do for each situation.”
There are numerous questions to answer with a secondary that has no returning players, George said. The strength comes from Tavaris Mutcherson on the line and from the linebackers, led by senior team captain Brandon Johnson.
George has a big task ahead in his first season and there are still a number of questions to answer on both sides of the ball.
George said on the field, Middleton will adopt a “take what we are given,” attitude. With the size up front, the running game will be the go-to option early on as Edoga and the passing game get game-tested.
The Tigers have seven games to work with before they get to a district meeting. And as part of a three-team district, they need just one win to reach the playoffs. Last season, visiting Spoto handed the Tigers a 24-0 loss, which was followed by a 35-0 road loss to Jesuit.
Though George said he’s working on the “next play, not focusing on games down the line,” the Oct. 24 game at Spoto will be what the Tigers’ season hinges on.
♦ About The Tigers
Stadium: Abe Brown Stadium
Class-District: 5A-9 (with Jesuit and Spoto)
Coach: Jeff George (first season)
Last season: 2-8
Aug. 29: Berkeley Prep
Sept. 5: at Freedom
Sept. 12: King
Sept. 26: at Riverview
Oct. 2: Brandon
Oct. 10: at Blake
Oct. 17: Leto
Oct. 24: at Spoto
Oct. 31: Jesuit
Nov. 7: at Bloomingdale