Chandler Tygard isn’t quite ready to name a starting quarterback.
The first-year Blackman football coach wants the leader of his uptempo offense to earn that role.
However, all signs point to Brentwood Academy transfer Jack Risner as the replacement for graduated three-year starter Drew Beam.
Risner handled most of the snaps in a 7-on-7 scrimmage at Ensworth last Thursday and overcame a few interceptions to finish the morning on a positive note. Sophomore lefty Peyton Thomas also saw time at quarterback.
Risner, a 6-foot-5 junior, threw a perfectly placed ball to Anthony Collier for a long touchdown to cap Blackman’s final full series. He later found Du’mikah Dowdy for a short score on the last play of the day.
“He’s slinging it around, man,” said Tygard, who stepped down as head coach at North Jackson (Ala.) in January to take the same job with the Blaze.
“He’s picking up (the offense) fast. He went to a college camp every week in June, so he only had nine or 10 practices, but the further we go, the better and better he’s doing.”
Risner is excited about the possibilities at Blackman. He was limited to junior varsity playing time as a freshman and sophomore at Brentwood Academy, where he learned from all-state gunslinger Tayler Montiel.
“I can’t wait to throw it around,” Risner said. “(Tygard) loves going at a fast tempo, and he likes taking shots (downfield). He’s not afraid to risk it. I’m all in for that type of offense.”
Tygard said he doesn’t have a specific name for his offense, which draws concepts from the Air Raid, run and shoot and run-pass option. North Jackson averaged 25 points per game and finished 6-6 in 2020.
“We’re whatever works,” he said. “We do a little bit of everything, but we like to throw and go fast.”
That offensive style requires playmakers.
Ben Marshall, a 6-foot-4 junior tight end, could be chief among them for Blackman this fall. He used his size and speed to haul in several touchdowns against Ensworth.
“He’s figuring out he’s uncoverable,” Tygard said. “He’s going to be big-time. And he’s a junior too. Everybody’s going to be a junior, almost. We’re really young.”
Other pass catchers include Collier, Dowdy and juniors Justin Brown and James Haynes.
Risner is still working to build chemistry with that group. He viewed Blackman’s extensive 7-on-7 slate, which included a trip to the Hoover Hustle Up 7-on-7 last weekend, as a chance to get comfortable.
“A lot of the time we’re on different pages,” Risner said. “We’re still putting in this new offense, so wide receivers are still learning routes, and I’m still learning progressions.”
Blackman closed the 2020 regular season with three straight wins to clinch its 12th consecutive TSSAA playoff appearance. The Blaze still finished 4-7, and coach Kit Hartsfield left for Mt. Pleasant in January.
Improving on that record will be difficult in Region 4-6A that includes defending state champion Oakland and perennial contender Riverdale.
Risner hopes Blackman can earn its way back into the mix.
“We’re just trying to go out and surprise people,” he said.