The third annual Forsyth Sports Media Day was another illuminating event: Coaches talked about offseason activities, preseason expectations, and reflections from the previous year. You can watch all the appearances at the Forsyth County News' Facebook page.
Certain tidbits stood out more than others, though, either for their newsworthiness or their value in giving fans a look at how the upcoming season might look for their favorite team. Here are seven important things we learned from Wednesday's event.
It won’t be long now
South Forsyth head coach Jeff Arnette was asked at one point during the event to compare Jamal Camp with his brother, Jalen. And Arnette put it concisely and accurately: The brothers are hard workers and excellent athletes, but the resemblance ends there. Jalen was a fleet, lithe wide receiver/defensive back type, and Jamal is a hulking defensive end, more suited to close off open space than run around in it.
But both of them are Division I-quality athletes, as Jamal Camp’s recruitment has showed. Jalen Camp wound up at Georgia Tech, where he’s currently one of the Yellow Jackets’ top options at receiver, and Jamal has offers ranging from defending FCS champion James Madison to SEC mainstay Tennessee. When asked of his thought process and timeframe in his recruiting search, he said that he’s looking for a school that gives him the opportunity to study business and not be too far from home, and that he hopes to decide by the third or fourth game of the season.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Camp said. “I know what I’m looking for.”
North Forsyth is playing is close to the vest as far as what the Raiders’ offense will look like this coming fall. Head coach Robert Craft is willing to share that the Raiders will still operate out of their base spread look, but as far as how different personnel will affect their play style, North is opting for their games to tell that story, for the time being. However, Carter Mullikin, the team’s first-year starting quarterback, did offer one (slightly obvious) peek at how his skillset may affect North’s strategy.
“I’ll definitely be able to pass a lot this year, because of our line and how much time I’ll have, but there will also be times when we’ll have to make plays on the ground with my feet,” Mullikin said.
That option would be a new look for the Raiders, as graduated starter Ben Bales, whose his 6-foot-3 frame and strong arm made for an ideal pocket passer, was not fleet of foot: He accounted for -41 yards rushing in 2017. The threat of either Mullikin or senior tailback Bryson Trigg breaking loose out of the backfield would certainly be a new trick for North.
More than a new face
Lambert head coach Louis Daniel isn’t trying to replace Bryce Christensen. The only way to do that for the current Georgia Southern freshman, who could boom 50-plus yard punts and 45-plus-yard field goals, would be to have his equally talented understudy waiting, and it’s hard enough to get one player like that.
Drew Dockter could assume many of Christensen’s duties for the Longhorns this year, and they’ll be among many other for the senior. Dockter could fill in at multiple positions on offense and defense – he’s currently listed as a running back on MaxPreps – so he won’t have the singular focus and outsider-like role that Christensen did. As Daniel sees it, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“He’s a high school football player – a really good, solid guy who really enjoys the game,” Daniel said. “Sometimes, they’re more productive than you think they are, because when you’re out there sweating and bleeding through the course of the football game, you lining up for a 32-yard field goal with three seconds left, that means a lot to you.”
The players that Denmark head coach Terry Crowder has for his first Danes football team had to come from somewhere: Mainly, it’s South Forsyth, which had to absorb another hit fairly recently when Lambert opened up in 2009. Ze’Vian Capers and Nick Carozza, Denmark’s two representatives at Media Day, both played for the War Eagles last year.
But Crowder has been on the other side of the coin, as his time coaching at Chattahoochee coincided with the opening of Johns Creek High School, which cut into the Cougars’ enrollment. He knows how it goes. He doesn’t feel bad for what Denmark has done to South and West.
“If you coach in metro Atlanta, you better expect this to happen,” Crowder said. “…It’s just growing so fast.”
Plenty of options
Given Denmark’s presence, the process of starting a program was something of a theme for the day. Forsyth Central head coach Frank Hepler certainly has experience with the subject: He did it at West Forsyth, then at Discovery in Gwinnett County, and when he took over Central, the Bulldogs had been down for so long that he looked at the task like he was starting from scratch.
And when Hepler dug into the program’s history, he found something that could be a key: When the Bulldogs ran the option, they typically did pretty well with it. Installing that scheme for quarterback Hunter Cagle to run has been a significant focus of the team’s offseason activities, and they looked to schools like Kennesaw State for inspiration and tips for running the scheme. The real games in a few weeks will be the true test of effectiveness, but Hepler is already seeing positive results.
“We played Alpharetta in the spring, and I know it’s only a spring game, but our offensive production about doubled or triple from what we did in games last year against some pretty good athletes,” Hepler said.
A heavy pro football influence has present since the first day of Pinecrest head coach Terance Mathis’ tenure. Mathis himself is a former Pro Bowler with the Falcons, and he brought NFL alum Buster Davis on as defensive coordinator the first year.
Mathis is going even bigger in 2018. He struck up a relationship with former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Tim Lewis in 2002, Mathis’ last year in the league, and recently reconnected with Lewis when he heard that he was out of coaching. He had Lewis take a look at Pinecrest’s film from 2017, and Mathis had his former coach aboard shortly thereafter.
“It makes my job easier, because I’m learning, too,” Mathis said of Lewis’ presence. “…If I think I knew everything, I’d have five Super Bowl rings right now.”
On the run
West is not shy about its planned emphasis on the running game this year. Head coach Shawn Cahill mentioned Stanford and North Dakota State, two old-school ground-and-pound teams, as inspirations during the spring, and with aerial threats like Bryce Jones and Ben Bresnahan now graduated, it makes sense from a personnel standpoint that the Wolverines would move in that direction.
The Wolverines’ coaches are definitely leaning in. They’ve moved Derek Hughes, formerly an offensive lineman, to fullback after he slimmed down significantly, and linebacker Mikhari Sibblis is set to get time at tight end. Stephon Bland, who was one of the team’s wide receivers last year, is now a running back. And Cahill will have a hand in there, too: He took a hands-off approach in his first year as head coach last year, but now he’s back at a position, coaching running backs.
“I felt like I had to have my hand on something,” Cahill said. “I didn’t want to stand out at practice and twiddle my thumbs and watch. I love football, but I didn’t want to watch that much of it.”