At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, James Tripplet has the dimensions of a versatile high school running back or possibly an undersized prep linebacker. What he doesn't have is the size for the position he's become an absolute dynamo at: Nose tackle.
Yet nose tackle is precisely where Tripplet -- whose pictured in pursuit of the ball at a scrimmage above, wearing number 7 -- has felt at home, and have a major influence on his teammates. As a junior, the two-way starter helped turn around the Hardaway (Ga.) High football teams defense after a 1-3 start, moving from linebacker to nose tackle and paving the way for a dominant second half of the season in which the Hawks eventually earned the school's first playoff berth since 1999.
According to the Ledger-Enquirer, Tripplet's key role in creating a dominant defensive front didn't go unnoticed, either. After the season, the junior was named as a first team member of the 1AAAA All Region team as a nose tackle … and a second team member as a running back. That's saying something in one of Georgia's tougher regions.
The stats back up that honor, too. Tripplet finished with an astounding 66 tackles (9 were for a loss) and 3 sacks on the defensive line, all while squaring off against opponents who were often 75-100 pounds heavier than he was.
In short, if ever there was a case that size isn't everything, Tripplet may be it.
"[Hardaway football coach Jeff Battles] said I've been a leader since I came in, but I don't know," Triplett told the Ledger-Enquirer. "I just lead by playing hard and working hard every whistle. Other people see what I do, and I guess they try to follow along and do everything a little bit harder and play faster."
Now Battles is expecting to get even more out of his pint sized dynamo in his senior season. After rushing for 472 yards and two touchdowns out of the offensive backfield as a junior, Tripplet is expected to be the Hawks' featured back in 2011.
Of course, that hardly means that Tripplet will stop delivering bruising hits from nose tackle on defense. In fact, Battles considers the senior's leadership of a line that returns entirely intact a key asset for his team's forthcoming season.
"Those guys have that one year together, so that full year of experience is definitely going to help them this year because at least they know what to expect when they get into something," Battle said. "And especially with Triplett on the field, they should be good again. Emotionally and physically, he brings a lot of energy with him, and I think they feed off that a good bit."