Football Spotlight: Union County Tigers

Union County players, left to right at the top, Casey Driggers (5) linebacker, Caleb Cox (15) quarterback, Parker Hodgson (2) wide receiver and Dairon Alexander (6) and, at bottom, running backand Alden McClellon (32).

Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, August 22, 2014 at 7:07 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 22, 2014 at 7:07 a.m.

Like many teams in the area, the Union County Tigers underwent changes with their football program during the offseason.


Union County Tigers

2013 record: 10-2
Coach: Ronny Pruitt
District: 7-1A
Key games: Sept. 12 at Keystone Heights, Oct. 3 vs. Dixie County, Oct. 24 vs. Chiefland
Players to watch: QB Caleb Cox, TE Parker Hodgson, LB Alden McClellon

(all games at 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 29: Jacksonville Potter's House Christian
Sept. 5: Callahan West Nassau
Sept. 12: at Keystone Heights
Sept. 19: Interlachen
Sept. 26: Jasper Hamilton County
Oct. 3: Dixie County*
Oct. 17: at Newberry*
Oct. 24: Chiefland*
Oct. 31: at Williston*
Nov. 7: Wildwood
* district games

Coming off a 10-2 record last season in District 7-1A, fifth-year coach Ronny Pruitt hired three new assistant coaches and implemented a new scheme on offense.

However, none of the coaching additions were the result of any defections.

“We didn't get rid of anybody really,” Pruitt said. “My previous defensive coordinator, coach Steve Hoard, he's still on staff. He's the assistant principal of our middle school, so that's going to take a whole lot of time away from him.

“Our new defensive coordinator, Jonathan Mauk, was a defensive coordinator at North Florida Christian and a head coach up in Georgia (at Bible Baptist School in Savannah).”

Union County's top returning defender is senior Alden McClellon, a first team all-area selection in 2013. The versatile lineman will play linebacker this year for the Tigers as they convert to a 40-front defense.

“Defense right now is probably our weakest spot,” Pruitt said. “Every year since I've been at Union County, defense has always been our strength going into the season.

“This year is going to be different. We're not blessed with the type of athletes we usually have on that side of the ball. So we're going to have to be fundamentally sound and make sure that we're in the right spots. We have to utilize what we have and not make mistakes.”

Pruitt also brought on Chris Diuguid to assist in coaching both the offensive and defensive line, while Mark Williams joins the two strength coaches already on staff.

“He's phenomenal,” McClellon said of Williams. “He brings out the best in all of us.”

Pruitt is excited about the impact Williams has made.

“Coach Williams came from the University of Florida and just wanted to be part of our program,” he said. “He's done a phenomenal job. He's one of those coaches that can get everything out of our kids and they still want to work afterward. If I go in there and try to do the same thing, they all hate me by the end of the day.”

Offensively, the Tigers return another first team all-area pick from last season in senior quarterback Caleb Cox, who threw for an area-best 1,496 yards as a junior.

Union County has switched to a spread offense after four years of the Wing-T under Pruitt. Cox believes the new system will allow him to accomplish his goal of throwing for 2,000 yards.

“It's great,” he said of the new offense. “It gives me a chance to actually throw the ball and get our guys catches. Usually all that our receivers do is block because we always run the ball.

“This offense let's all of us contribute and do our thing. It's going to be fun. I'm ready for it.”

Pruitt said the spread is something he has considered running in the past but didn't because he had a stable of running backs for the Wing-T.

With only three tailbacks on the team this year, it was time to make the move.

“We made a commitment as a staff to make the spread our primary offense,” Pruitt said. “Let's dive all the way in. We could go out there today and run the Wing-T. The kids know it and they won't lose it.

“But everything we've done over the summer has been strictly spread, and we're not going to abandon it during the season. We're going to ride this horse all the way through.”

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