Sterlington's coaching staff has high expectations for senior right guard Tyler Buffington this season. Buffington's experience and willingness to work have heightened those expectations.
"Tyler has given us everything you want from a senior as far as an accountability point of view," head coach Jason Thompson said. "He's committed to this football team.
"He's just a super kid. He's certainly one of the anchors of our offensive line."
Buffington has slid over to right guard after starting at center last season.
"We're trying to find the best combination of kids to be starters," offensive line coach Willie Ragan said. "We need some of them to be able to play more than one position in case somebody gets hurt. Tyler's intelligent enough to play several positions."
Ragan, who joined the Panthers' staff over the summer, likes what he has seen from Buffington.
"He's a high character kid and he's unselfish," Ragan said. "He's willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better."
Thompson says the Panthers will rely heavily on Buffington's blocking skills in the weeks ahead.
"Tyler's one of those kids that has been in the fire on Friday night and we are going to lean on him as much as we can this year," Thompson said.
NOWN: When did you start playing football?
Tyler Buffington: When I was in the fourth grade, I played in a Pee Wee league in Brookhaven, Miss. Tom Cole was my first coach.
NOWN: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of football?
Buffington: My favorite part is when, after a long week of practice, everything pays off with a win.
My least favorite part used to be bleachers, but we didn't run bleachers this summer, so I would probably have to say the conditioning. I like to lift, but I don't like to run.
NOWN: Why are you excited about the upcoming season?
Buffington: I'm excited about the new coaching staff and how everybody is buying into what we're doing. The tempo is really high in whatever we do. I think all of those things are going to help us win games.
NOWN: What challenges does Benton's defense present for the Panthers' offense?
Buffington: They're not very big, but they're really quick. They get off the ball quick and both defensive ends are extremely fast. Their linebackers really flow to the ball.
NOWN: Which type of defensive lineman gives you the most trouble — the smaller/quicker or the bigger/stronger ones?
Page 2 of 3 - Buffington: Probably, the small, quick guys because it's harder to get under them. The big guy may be stronger, but it's so much easier to get under them.
NOWN: How is the chemistry on the offensive line?
Buffington: Most of us have been here for four years, so we pretty much know how each individual thinks. I look for it to pay off this year. Maybe some of us didn't start, but all of us have been going against the veterans that were here in the past in practice. We're always there to correct each other when somebody does something wrong.
NOWN: How is the transition from center to guard working out for you?
Buffington: I really like guard because you don't have to worry about snapping the ball. Blocking the nose guard can be a problem when you have to snap the ball. At guard, I can move off the ball a lot quicker.
NOWN: Which teammate is going to be a surprise for the Panthers this season?
Buffington: I think DeVante Douglas is really going to help us out at running back when Jaylon (Wade) needs a break.
NOWN: What are the biggest hits you have received and delivered?
Buffington: They were both against Homer last year.
I was running downfield to make a tackle on an interception and a guy ear holed me. I never saw him coming and he knocked the breath out of me.
In the same game, a guy from Homer was coming around the edge and I ear holed him.
NOWN: What has addition of coach Willie Ragan meant to the offensive line?
Buffington: Coach Ragan has been around the game a long time. I've learned a lot from him already. We pay attention to what coach Ragan says because we know he knows a lot more than we do. He knows his stuff.
NOWN: Outside of football, what is something you hope to accomplish during your senior year?
Buffington: I want to maintain a good GPA, improve my ACT score and go deep into the playoffs in baseball.
NOWN: What are your future plans?
Buffington: I plan to go to college and major in kinesiology. I plan on going somewhere to play football; I'm just waiting to see what happens. After college, I plan to become a strength and conditioning coach.
Page 3 of 3 - NOWN: Why are you interested in the strength and conditioning field?
Buffington: I've always liked lifting weights and I like being around sports. Coach (Jeremy) Many, our strength and conditioning coach, works with the offensive line, too. I feel like I could do something like that. Whatever I do, I want to be around sports.