For junior Jaylon Lyles, that included switching sides of the ball and, more or less, becoming the Volunteers main source of offense. His big season on offense earned him The Anniston Star’s All-Area player of the year, which includes the newspaper's coverage area outside Calhoun County.
“Going into last spring, we had lost all the seniors, and going into this year, we didn’t know who was going to fill that role,” Herron said. “In spring training, we had a couple of different guys that we threw in there during those 10 days, but during that time and evaluating that, the way Jaylon performed and some of the things we saw him do, we thought he could be the guy.”
Lyles said he was prepared for another season on defense, but the coaching staff had other plans. Playing tailback, he finished the season with 2,089 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns, 188 passing yards and a touchdown throw. He played a little on defense, recording 21 tackles and an interception. He had 2,385 all-purpose yards.
“I think we were pleasantly surprised,” Herron said. “He had some big games, the first coming to mind being Childersburg. We went over there and he had more than 260 yards in a physical game.”
Herron described Lyles as a “heavy runner,” adding the junior did “anything we asked him to do.”
Lyles’ will to learn and contribute as much as possible paid off in the latter half of the season. Lyles would line up at wildcat on occasion, but in the second half of the season would pass the ball instead of run it.
“We knew he could throw because his history had been at quarterback in junior high,” Herron said. “Once we worked in some runs we worked in some passes the second half of the season because typically you’d think he was going to keep the ball and run.”
The best news for Herron is Clay Central will have his top tailback back on the field next fall.
“I’m tickled to death he’s only a junior and will back next year,” he said. “We’ve already started in the weight room and with our off-season program. He knows he’ll be a leader next year and we’re looking for good things from him again.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star