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Chemistry experiments: Changes at South target new formula for success
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Forsyth County News
Wendell Early likes the way his new team is shaping up thus far.

Arriving at South Forsyth earlier this spring after coaching at Berkmar in Region 8-AAAAA since 2003, the War Eagles' new head coach said he has already been very impressed by the character of his players.

"It's just a great group of kids," said Early, days after the conclusion of spring practice. "They try to do everything you ask them to do and more."

He and his staff believe that at this stage of the offseason, they are in the relationship business as much as the football business. Building a strong rapport between the players and coaches has been job number one from the outset.

"It's vital," Early said. "It's our highest priority right now."

In addition to the change at head coach, six of South's 12 assistant and position coaches are also new. While the group is a mix of new and familiar faces, according to Early, they have had no trouble gelling together.

"I'm really happy with our staff. It has great chemistry," the coach said, adding that due to the volatile nature of the business, he places a great emphasis on making sure his coaches feel supported.

"I believe in servant leadership. I believe my job is to give our coaches what they need to do their job."

While learning names and building relationships was a focal point during the spring, the War Eagles also spent plenty of time on X's and O's. The team installed a brand new offensive system, changing to the spread scheme from the wing-t that was used last season.

Although there is a learning curve to virtually any new system, the coach said that his athletes have been receptive to the change and he feels the team has the personnel to make it to succeed.

"We threw a lot at these kids in two weeks," Early said. "They're hungry and they're excited and they want to learn. We're not barnburners, but we have guys that can run decent routes and catch the ball in a crowd and get first downs."

The new coach expects the quarterback position to be a main strength of the new system, where senior signal-caller Brian Adams can continue to punish defenses on the ground and through the air.

"The approach we've made is tailor-made for a guy like Brian Adams," Early said. "He is a superior athlete."

Backup quarterbacks Austin Jones, a junior, and Nick Belyew, a sophomore, have also made positive impressions on the new coach.

Jones' athleticism will likely earn him playing time at other positions, but both reserves saw increased action behind center in spring practice since Adams, the starting center fielder on the War Eagles' baseball team, was unable to participate due to South's presence in the Class AAAAA state tournament.

Early said that although Adams' absence wasn't ideal for the quarterback or the team, in the long run, it won't have an impact.

"He's going to learn fast and catch on quickly," the coach said. "Halfway through the summer it will be like he never missed it."

While linebacker is considered a strength of the team, the offensive line is something of a question mark going into the season.

"We're a radically different offense than what we've run here before," Early said. "Offensive line-wise we are very young, very inexperienced, so we'll really have to work hard there."

South gets a warm-up prior to the start of the season when Forsyth Central comes to War Eagle Field for a scrimmage on Aug. 22. Matchups with Alpharetta and South Gwinnett also precede the region opener on Sept. 12 at home against North Gwinnett.

The War Eagles also host Northview, Duluth and Mill Creek later in the season. The team will travel to Chattahoochee, North Forsyth, Peachtree Ridge and Mill Creek.

"[Region 7-AAAAA] is the toughest region around," Early said. "There's not an easy week in [our schedule]."

For now, however, fall opponents are not the War Eagles' concern.

"Even as coaches, we haven't ... talked about the season," the coach said. "All we want to do is put good days back-to-back."