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Tuskegee aiming high despite replacing QB Huff
Sixth in a series

By John Zenor
Associated Press Writer

Willie Slater’s 10-win debut season didn’t do much to lower the always high expectations of Tuskegee football fans.

And that’s OK with him, since the Golden Tigers’ coach remembers being on the opposite end of the totem pole at struggling programs like Temple and West Alabama.

“My value of wins has changed since I was up at those other schools, when we went through whole seasons and didn’t win games,” Slater said. “You come here and they expect you to win every game. I like that a lot better.”

The Tigers were co-champions of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season and are picked to finish second this season, behind Albany State. The two teams shared the title last season, and Tuskegee went on to beat Johnson C. Smith in the Pioneer Bowl.

“Everybody’s shooting for us,” Slater said. “We have to play our best every week or we’ll have our heads handed to us.”

Their biggest challenge will be replacing dual-threat quarterback Kevin Huff, who passed for 1,876 yards and ran for a team-high 629 last season.

His expected successor, Jacary Atkinson, was one of his targets last season. Atkinson caught 22 passes, one more than he attempted as Huff’s backup.

“I think he’s a good player,” Slater said. “He just lacks experience. That’s always a big question mark, how he’s going to respond to pressure situations. He responded pretty good at wideout. He had some big catches in some pretty important games.”

Like Huff, Atkinson is a threat to run. He played in a wishbone offense in high school.

Atkinson also can hand off to Richard Fitzhugh, whose numbers dipped to 506 yards and two touchdowns from 909 yards and nine TDs a year earlier, partly because of injuries.

“He’s one of those guys, he’s not as fast as you want him to be, he’s not big as you want him to be. But he just gets the job done,” Slater said. “He’s very strong.”

Tuskegee football at a glance

  • Coach: Willie Slater, second year (10-2).

  • Last year: 10-2, 6-1 SIAC (T-first).

  • Offense: QB Jacary Atkinson, who also played receiver last season, replaces Kevin Huff. He is athletic and mobile but lacks experience. Line returns all five starters. RB Richard Fitzhugh and WRs Lorenzo Crawford and Jason English are also back.

  • Defense: DT Kareem Anderson and LB Jonathan Hall are among the key players returning. CB Jarod Simpson is returning from knee injury that sidelined him in the spring.

  • Special teams: Punter Christopher Khan returns.

  • Key losses: QB Kevin Huff, DT Altron Jackson, DB Justin Hannah, DE Christopher McNair (academics).

  • >Opener: Sept. 2 at Miles.

  • Pivotal game: Oct. 20 at Albany State.

  • Outlook: The biggest question mark is how Atkinson will fare in replacing do-everything QB Kevin Huff. The defense fell from the league’s best to middle of the pack last season. The Golden Tigers were picked to finish second in the SIAC, behind Albany State. But they seem to lack star power with only OL Anthony Driver picked first-team preseason All-SIAC.

    The Associated Press

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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