As the Newton Falls Tigers attempt to rebuild after a 2-8 record in 2011, one of the keys to any possible resurgence is Jarred Crowder.
Crowder, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior, plays tight end on offense and on defense he stands out as a hybrid linebacker/safety for the Tigers.
"He's a strong team leader," first-year Newton Falls coach Jon Culp said. "He's someone people follow. He works hard; he's a tight end and a backup quarterback. He's very athletic. He puts people in a bind at tight end. He's also one of our outside linebackers, lately playing a hybrid position."
Crowder said he's optimistic the Tigers will be much improved over 2011.
"I feel very confident I'm going to do real good this year," he said. "Practice has been going good and the team has been working well together. My older teammates are doing a good job working with the younger guys. I feel we're going to be successful this year and we're going to have one of best seasons we've ever had."
Crowder didn't see a lot of balls thrown his way last season as a tight end, but Culp said he did very well with the action he did see.
"He averaged 20 to 25 yards per catch. He didn't have a lot of catches but he had big averages," Culp said. "He had a big touchdown catch against Brookfield. Against Campbell, he had a good game on both sides of the ball."
"I felt like I had a better season than I have ever had but it could've been better," Crowder said.
The 2011 season started bad for Newton Falls with a 50-0 beating at home against Southeast as the Tigers finished 2-8. The team did have a tough schedule and gave playoff teams Brookfield, Youngstown Christian and Columbiana tough games.
Crowder said he has set high goals for himself this season.
"I want to do the best I can off and on the field," he said. "I want to lead not only in the classroom but on the field and set a good example. Do the best I can as a team leader and be a team captain.
Culp said Crowder's work load will increase on the offensive side of the ball this season.
"We're going to rely on him offensively," Culp said. "We're going to use him as a tight end to put teams in a bind. He's a good blocker so he's going to help the running game. He's not afraid to mix it up."
"I want to be able to help out at the tight end position," Crowder said. "Getting routes in practice and the slot position on scrambles. I definitely see myself being one of the better guys on D. Hopefully I'll be one of the two best linebackers this year."
Crowder has also been working on his punting skills, earning the starting spot at that position this season.
"When the coaches talk to me about it, it focused me a little more on special teams," he said. "I worked on it and went to a few punter camps. I spent a lot more time at practice and after practice on technique and form. I've been working with the snappers getting our timing down."