Ever since Jaden Carrier arrived at Vinton High School, head coach Tarius Davis knew he had another two-way star in the making.
"We were expecting a lot out of him as a young kid coming in," Davis said. "Of course, Jaden being a two-way athlete, he drew comparisons to Anfernee Dixon right off the bat.
"We didn't want to put a whole lot of pressure on him to follow up the type of career that Anfernee had here. We felt like he could be a guy that could come in and be that type of football player for us that could cause problems on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game."
Carrier started to emerge in that role last season when he caught 28 passes for 561 yards and nine touchdowns plus a pair of kickoff return touchdowns and another off a fumble recovery.
In two seasons Carrier has caught 39 passes for 806 yards and 12 touchdowns, similar to Dixon's first two seasons (42-813, 8 TDs). Dixon wrapped up his career in 2014 as one of the Lions' best receivers ever with 2,589 yards and 32 touchdowns.
"I think that (Carrier) has progressed over the last couple of years," Davis said. "He looked good over the summer.
"He is going to be our guy on offense. He is going to be the lead guy. You can tell that he has grown in that aspect. He understands that responsibility. He is at a point now as a junior that we are going to run a lot of things through him on offense. I think that he has embraced that role and he is poised for a big season."
Davis said Carrier will see his role expand this year to not only playing on the outside to draw double teams but also as a slot receiver in the one-back shotgun offense. He will also reprise his role at cornerback and move over to safety at times to give quarterback Drew Heinen a break from double duty.
"We think that Jaden is a lot like Anfernee," Davis said. "It forces people to decide if they are going to commit one or two guys.
"We will play him on the outside to see if they are going to give us single coverage, and if they do then we feel like we will take our chances in a one-on-one situation. We will play him inside in the slot too. We think that is going to help put the ball in his hands in multiple ways this year instead of just being on the outside."
Carrier, a three-sport athlete, has run into injuries (hand, shoulder) since the 2018 season and missed a lot of the 2018-2019 basketball season and all of the 2019 baseball season. But Davis said he expects Carrier to be ready for the season opener on Sept. 6 at home against St. Edmund.
"He has been out awhile," Davis said. "He just recently got back out on the field in full participation.
"When we get into pads next week he will be able to go. We are going to be careful with him in fall camp. We are going to have to pull him back a bit because he is going want to go out there and go full bore. We are going to get him the reps he needs to be prepared when the season starts, but we are also going to be smart about it in the preseason."