Batten, Beck to anchor O-line

Published 11:14 am Thursday, August 22, 2019

Davie has a lot of returning production from 2018’s offense. With Nate Hampton, Josh Robinson, Tate Carney, Jack Reynolds and Evan Little back as starters, with several more ready to emerge, it appears the skill positions are up to the task.

Is the offensive line?

No matter is more pressing than retooling the o-line at center, right guard and right tackle. The new starters at those spots are bound to experience some growing pains. In theory, that’s a good reason to panic about the 2019 offense. OL coach Jimmie Welch, though, doesn’t seem overly worried.

“I look at it as an opportunity for guys,” Welch said. “It’s an opportunity for guys to show whether or not they’re going to be able to help us. I’m excited to see who steps up.”

Expectations are sky high for the left side of the line. The alpha dog is Tanner Batten, a 6-2, 280-pound senior at left guard. The third-year varsity starter earned all-conference honors in 2018.

Welch: “No. 1, he’s knowledgable of what he’s supposed to be doing. No. 2, he’s a physical player. No. 3, he’s a leader for that group. He’s calm and cool and plays through every whistle. I can see him playing on Saturdays. He’s got a lot of people who are interested in him. His height is what hurts him. He’s around 6-2 on a good day. He’s probably a Division-II player.”

Head coach Tim Devericks: “Tanner really got serious about his diet, and he transformed his body into an athletic lineman.”

The fact that Camden Beck (6-1, 255) started on varsity throughout his freshman year brings instant credibility. The sophomore is a rising star at left tackle.

Defensive coordinator Blaine Nicholson: “He’s more of a technician this year.”

Offensive coordinator Matt Gould: “He’s put in a lot of work, and he’s much bigger and stronger. We’ve got two guys we know we can count on.”

Welch: “He’s a lot stronger than he was last year and he’s got more height. He is God-given athletic. He has determination. Between his athleticism and his competitiveness, he’s a tough dude. Last year (he started because of his) athleticism. This year he’s going to be able to combine strength and knowledge. I’m looking to see him dominate plays this year.”

Devericks: “Camden knew he needed to add some weight, and he did it the right way. He didn’t eat anything in sight. He ate the right things and put on a lot of muscle.”

With hopes high for Batten and Beck, the War Eagles could make a surprise push in the CPC if they find stability at other OL areas.

Aidan Payne and Spencer Williams are X factors. Payne is a senior transfer. He has grown up in Davie County, but after attending Ellis Middle, he spent three years of high school at Bishop McGuinness and Hargrave Military Academy.

The likely starter at center is undersized, but Payne has a drive to overcome modest physical gifts with utter willpower. He goes all-out all the time.

Gould: “He’s a little undersized, but he’s very aggressive and he’s physical. He really gets after it. He’s played a lot of football on the offensive and defensive lines. I’ve been real impressed with him. He might not know everything he’s supposed to do the first couple of weeks, but he goes 100 percent every play.”

Welch: “He’s a guy we definitely did not count on. You talk about a guy who gives great effort. He strikes. He tries to physically dominate a play. He’s 6-foot and probably a little less than 200 pounds. His effort and aggression definitely counter his (lack of) size.”

Devericks: “He’s looking to take a lot of reps at center. What he doesn’t have in size, he makes up for it in heart and hustle.”

The other linemen either worked in the varsity shadows last year or played JV. Williams (6-4, 280) is a candidate to start at right tackle as a sophomore, as is junior Zy’Mier Lewis. Williams is a mind-blowing talent in track & field in the shot put and discus, earning national rankings in his 2022 class.

Gould: “We’re hoping Spencer can step up. He’s got the size.”

Welch: “He had a really good (team) camp. He made a lot of progression.”

Devericks: “I could see (Williams and Lewis) getting time at right tackle.”

Seniors Jared Simpson and Stuie Marshall are possibilities at right guard. Junior Merritt Killian is competing at center and guard. Junior Ashton Williams is an option at center. Robert Landry is a junior tackle.