Now, 41 consecutive starts later, the Pleasant Valley head coach couldn't imagine the Raiders' offensive line without Jared Colvin, the most experienced player on a unit expected to be the team's strength this season.
If the Raiders are going to have success, it will fall on the shoulders of the line. It's a husky group that will be vital to the seven- and eight-minute drives Davis said will be important for keeping the Raiders in games and getting them back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
"The one thing that excites me more this year is we've got our guys up front back," Davis said. "Last year, we were very inexperienced up front. It wasn't that we lacked size or ability — we were just inexperienced. So far in camp, they're a lot more confident, a lot more sure of themselves. We're not having to teach them what to do as much as we did last year.
"We're not going to break many 80-yard runs, but we may 4-, 5- and 6-yard you to death. That's the way we have to play anyway to be successful. We need drives that last seven, eight minutes as long as we've got the ball."
Moving the chains means moving people off the ball, and the Raiders have that two deep.
It starts with Colvin, a 5-foot-11, 240-pound senior who is moving to right guard after four years at right tackle. He'll be joined across the front by 6-0, 210-pound center Nick O'Dell, right tackle Austin Parris (6-2, 260), left tackle Dylan England, left guard Jacob Harrelson and tight end Dustin Andrews (6-5, 220). Just as important, they have a complete second unit behind them to provide depth. That group will be young, but it'll average 235 pounds, and it'll likely be inserted in the third or fourth series of games.
"Our line is pretty dadgum good," Colvin said. "I know good and well our line is up to (the expectations). I trust those other four people more than I do anybody. I know if something happens, they're going to be there. There's no doubt in my mind we can get it done this year."
That line will be providing protection for quarterback Lucas Ford, who has started 20 games in his career, and backs Drew Luwinski and Dalton Bean. Davis is hopeful they'll be able to handle the demands that come with a ball-control offense. Hunter Carr, Sandy Smith and Matthew Parker will play on the outside and Davis will be looking to "invent ways" to get Andrews involved in the offense.
Most of the offensive starters will double up on defense as the Raiders expect to play 16 to 17 players in their regular rotation. Davis said they rotated about 25 players in 2007 when they won six of their first seven and went 7-4, the best of his eight seasons as their head coach.
It'll be hard to get Colvin out of the mix. The lineman proved his worth early on when the Raiders called a slip screen to the right and the quarterback was reluctant to run because he didn't think Colvin could get out there and block. But the new starter said he had it and proved it by laying out a would-be tackler.
"From that point I didn't worry about that," Davis said. "Of all the guys we could have gotten that day, we get this slow, fat guy. I knew his name, but I didn't know a whole lot about him, what type of kid he was, but there's not enough you can say about his worth ethic and what he's done. He loves the game of football. He waddled his tail up there, so we moved our right tackle to left guard, and he hasn't missed a beat since."
Colvin, like Davis, remembers that day he was elevated to the varsity like it was yesterday. It was one of the first days the junior varsity had joined practice in pads and a veteran went down with an elbow injury. Instead of moving a smallish player from the backfield into the spot, Davis called for volunteers. Colvin, already manhandling players his own age, couldn't move his 280-pound frame at the time fast enough to get involved.
"I said, ‘I'll do it,’" he recalled. "I went up against a junior at the time and blew him off the ball and got to thinking maybe I can hang with these guys. I was pretty pumped to move up to the varsity. No eighth-graders got moved up.
“It was a high honor for me, not only to be on the team but to start. It gave me a sense of pride that I was able to hang with these kids."
And now, by the time this season ends, provided he stays healthy, Colvin will finish his high school career with more than 50 straight starts.
"That's pretty dadgum cool," he said. "It's pretty depressing this is my last year. I've been on varsity so long it feels like it should never end. It ends this year, and it's one of the most depressing things I'm going through. But I'm not going to let it get me down."
Al Muskewitz is a sports writer for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577. Pleasant Valley at a glance Head coach: Jeff Davis (29-54 in eight years at Pleasant Valley; 38-85 in 12 years overall, including 3-27 in three seasons at Glencoe and 6-4 in one season at J.B. Pennington).
Last year's record: 4-6, including 3-4 and tied for fifth in Class 2A, Region 6. The Raiders didn't make the playoffs.
Outlook: The Raiders were disappointed at missing the playoffs last year and believe they can make a run this season. They have a good-sized and experienced line and reliable skill position players to do what it takes to control the clock. The keys will be staying healthy with their limited roster and developing a secondary on defense.
Aug. 30, at Jacksonville
Sept. 6, at Ranburne
Sept. 13, vs. Vincent
Sept. 20, at Victory Christian
Sept. 27, vs. White Plains
Oct. 4, vs. Fultondale
Oct. 11, at Ohatchee
Oct. 18, at Woodland
Oct. 25, vs. Wellborn
Nov. 1, vs. Gaston