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Paglia: 5 early picks for Forsyth County defensive player of the year
FCN VPeppers 062714 web
Forsyth Central rising senior Victor Peppers was one of the county’s top linebackers last season even though it was his first playing the position. - photo by Colleen Bankston

You’re wrapped up in World Cup futbol, I get it.

But American football is less than two months away, and I can’t help but think to this fall and consider what will become of it.

What intrigues me the most is the amount of talent returning this season. Yes, there will be well-coached teams melded into cohesive units, teams worthy of the community’s affection and loyalty.

But more and more, Forsyth County high school football players are becoming big names in the metro Atlanta area – some even beyond.

Which makes things harder on us by the time Christmas comes around when we unveil our all-county Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year awards.

I’m already doing my research in advance of this season.

So here are five players, in no particular order, who I believe are front-runners to win Defensive Player of the Year honors.


The Wolverines haven’t been known for defense since the school opened in 2007, but it’s produced plenty of defensive standouts.

Coburn was one of those last season when the defensive lineman had 79 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hurries, seven sacks, four pass break-ups and three forced fumbles to earn second team All-Region 6-AAAAAA honors. West, meanwhile, went 7-4 and made the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

Why Coburn: The Wolverines have the talent to make the playoffs for the fifth straight season (which, for those keeping count, would be a county record), and if the rising senior takes another step up in his play he would have to be in the conversation.

Why not: A lot might depend on West’s defensive backs. The Wolverines have to replace two all-region players in that unit in Jordan Harris and Nick Walker whose coverage skills certainly helped Coburn and others have more time to rush opposing quarterbacks. If West struggles to find replacements, it will be tough for Coburn – or the Wolverines’ defensive line, in general – to match its production from a year ago.


Quick, how many War Eagles players made first team all-Region 6-AAAAAA defense? Just three, and Godswill is the only one returning.

The rising senior linebacker had 57 tackles, a team-high seven sacks, five pass break-ups and three tackles for loss.

Why Godswill: He emerged as one of the War Eagles’ biggest play-makers on defense last season. Godswill twice had two sacks in a game and was also effective in pass coverage. If he can take his game to another level, and help South end its three-year playoff drought, Godswill would definitely be a candidate.

Why not: It takes a lot at linebacker to standout in any county, let alone Forsyth County this season. And it wouldn’t help Godswill’s chances if South misses the playoffs again.


Maybe you’re thinking more about Jeremy Johnson the standout baseball player who helped lead the Longhorns to the Class AAAAAA championship as the team’s lead-off hitter and leftfielder.

But Johnson has seven scholarship offers in football coming off a breakout junior season in which he had 69 tackles (25 solo), 13 pass break-ups, six interceptions and one forced fumble. He was named to the Georgia Junior Bowl and

Why Johnson: Honestly, Johnson was our runner-up pick for Defensive Player of the Year last season that went to his teammate, linebacker Zach Matthews, so Johnson might be the front-runner going into the season. He’s a proven play-maker who can change the game.

Why not: The same reason why defensive backs don’t win player of the year awards at any level. It’s too easy for teams to throw the ball away from Johnson now that they know how dangerous he can be, which would hurt his stats.


McSwain is a newcomer to Forsyth County, and we’ll only get to see him for one season, but it should be a good one.

The 6-foot-7, 237-pound rising senior defensive end transferred this summer to Lambert from Lanier, where he was a pass-rushing force last season. He’s the No. 71 prospect in the state, according to and verbally committed to Duke last week.

McSwain helped Lanier go 9-3 and reach the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs with 67 tackles (39 solo), 16 quarterback hurries, nine sacks, seven tackles for loss, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.

Why McSwain: Lambert had another defensive player of the year candidate last season – it was the county’s best defense, after all – in Dillon Alexander who racked up a county-best 12 sacks. With Alexander’s graduation, McSwain could step right into the same role and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.

Why not: McSwain could run into the same problem Johnson did last season. If Lambert matches its defensive production from last season and makes the playoffs again, Longhorns players could start cancelling each other out.


Peppers was one of the best surprises last season in the county.

Making the transition from offensive line to linebacker, Peppers was a tackling machine. He finished with 98 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries as he was named first team all-Region 7-AAAAA.

Why Peppers: Few players in the county can rack up numbers like Peppers. His first four games last season Peppers had 17, 12, 20 and 11 tackles, respectively. With a year of experience at linebacker, he should be even better this season.

Why not: As in the case for Johnson, teams now know about Peppers. He won’t get the luxury of anonymity as he did last season, so teams could start running the ball away from Peppers. Plus, it wouldn’t help if Central has another 2-8 season.

Four more to consider: Logan Cross, North Forsyth; Adam Guard, Pinecrest Academy; Austin Sanders, West Forsyth; Adison Schimmelpfennig, Lambert.

Brian Paglia is sports editor at the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at, 770-205-8982 or on Twitter at @BrianPaglia.