Entering his eighth season as head football coach at Tyler Junior College, Danny Palmer said he is just as excited as if it was his first year in the business — and that was 40-plus years ago.
Indeed it is like a fresh start for Palmer as he has 68 freshmen in camp.
They have to grow up in a hurry as the Apaches not only open their season on Saturday, but it is also a Southwest Junior College Football Conference game. TJC, ranked No. 13 in the preseason poll, travels to Athens to meet No. 4 Trinity Valley Community College. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Bruce Field.
"I'm as excited as ever," Palmer said. "My wife (Sharon) and I love Tyler Junior College and the city of Tyler. It's not often a coach gets to return to his hometown and coach. I'm living a dream and I feel very fortunate to coach at a school like Tyler Junior College."
The Apaches had one of their best teams in years last season, earning a final ranking of No. 10 in the land after a 47-21 victory over Garden City (Kansas) Community College on Dec. 8 in the Football Capital of Kansas Bowl in Pittsburg, Kan.
TJC (9-2) tied TVCC for the regular season conference title, but the Cardinals won the league championship in the playoffs.
Now, the Apaches are ready for a new season with a goal of making the playoffs and winning the conference title.
"I really love the work ethic of this team," Palmer said. "We are so young; we need to have some early success.
"I feel good about the depth on defense, especially in the secondary."
The Apaches always have one of the most prolific offenses in the nation and Palmer is expecting lots of points again.
Beginning the season under center is University of Florida transfer Max Staver, a 6-5 freshman from Brentwood, Tennessee. Other quarterbacks are Tevon Muse, a 6-2 freshman from Mansfield, and Sederian Copeland, a 6-0 freshman from Dallas.
"Max will start, but all three will see playing time," Palmer said.
Chaston Bennett, a sophomore from Rusk, starts at running back with Hayden Cole, a 6-5 freshman from Pearland, slotted for halfback.
The offensive line was a strength for the Apaches last season. Standout Sam Jenkins (6-1, 321, sophomore), the big man from Duncanville, leads the unit and he will play right guard. Other projected starters include Frenchman Gustave Guillioux (6-7, 299, freshman, Monroe, Louisiana) at left tackle, Idong Okon (6-2, 279, sophomore, Tyler Lee) at left guard, center Brandon Upshaw (6-1, 261, freshman, Chapel Hill) and Andreu Kirby (6-9, 349, freshman Euless) at right tackle.
Tight ends include Buddy Tuamasaga (6-5, 244-pound freshman from Pago Pago, American Samoa) and White Oak freshman Hayden Nichols (6-4, 225).
Palmer said his wide receivers have great potential. Starters include Ryan Parker (freshman from Keller), Melvinson Hartfield (freshman from Dallas) and Willie Robinson (sophomore, Fort Worth). Backups include Coleman Patterson (freshman from Whitehouse), Jake Parker (freshman from Whitehouse) and Solomon McGinty (freshman from Navasota).
Lumi Kaba, who is being recruited by many D-I schools, Palmer said, will handle the kicking and punting. Palmer said he is one of the best in the nation.
The deep snapper is Stephen Dugas, a sophomore from Cypress.
Defensively, starters up front include defensive ends Colton Moorehead (6-3, 253, sophomore, Chapel Hill) and Motekiai Maile (6-4, 296, sophomore, Euless). The interior linemen include tackle Hafoka "Junior" Olie (6-0, 300, freshman, Euless) and nose guard Jordan Wells (6-0, 300, freshman, Navasota).
Maile, who was heavily recruited by many D-I schools, has committed to Oklahoma State, Palmer said.
Linebackers include Michael Taylor (6-1, 291, sophomore, Alto) and Tupe Saunoa (6-0, 230,freshman, Euless).
The secondary starters include cornerbacks Tre Rosser (5-10, 180, sophomore, Clarksville) and Nick Foster (5-9, 172, freshman, Keller). The free safety is Savion Brown (6-2, 218, sophomore, Shreveport, Louisiana) and weak safety Rashaad Burton (5-11, 182, freshman, Mansfield).
SMOKE SIGNALS: The Apaches also are on the road in Week 2, traveling to Brenham to meet Blinn on Sept. 6. … The home opener at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium is Sept. 13 against Arkansas Baptist.
2014 Tyler Junior College Apaches
Date Opponent Time
Aug. 30 *at Trinity Valley (Athens) 7 p.m.
Sept. 6 *at Blinn (Brenham) 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 Arkansas Baptist 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 *Northeastern Oklahoma A&M 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 *Cisco 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Southeast Prep (Santa Fe) 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Georgia Military (Milledgeville) 2 p.m.
Oct. 18 *at Navarro (Corsicana) 3 p.m.
Oct. 25 *^Kilgore 3 p.m.
Nov. 1 SWJCFC Semifinals TBA
Nov. 8 SWJCFC Championship TBA
* Southwest Junior College Football Conference game
Home games at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium