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Paglia: Reviewing preseason Forsyth County Defensive Player of the Year picks
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West Forsyth’s Alec Coburn (from left), South Forsyth’s Manny Godswill, Lambert’s Jeremy Johnson and Trevon McSwain and Forsyth Central’s Victor Peppers have had varying degrees of success this season.

Back in June, I proposed a group of early contenders for Forsyth County Defensive Player of the Year, and in that group was an impressive collection of talent – an ACC commit, a two-sport Division I prospect, two quarterback menaces and a tackling robot.

Now, at the mid-point of the high school football season, the county’s defensive star power has waned a bit. No county team has emerged as a defensive juggernaut. Forsyth Central has been the best in the county, allowing 15.0 points per game, followed by South Forsyth (20.4), Lambert (20.6), Pinecrest Academy (21.8), West Forsyth (36.8) and North Forsyth (39.4). No rest for a weary scoreboard operator.

Some of my contenders have succumbed to the defensive malaise in the county. Others have thrived despite it. Here’s a look at how my five early picks for county defensive player of the year have fared so far this season:

Alec Coburn, West Forsyth

Last season: Coburn had 79 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hurries, seven sacks, four pass break-ups and three forced fumbles. He was named second-team all-Region 6-AAAAAA and first-team all-county.

This season: The senior linebacker has 24 tackles, seven tackles for loss, five sacks, two quarterback hurries, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in five games for West (2-3).

Verdict: Coburn has validated the preseason attention. He’s on pace to eclipse his season totals in tackles for loss and sacks from a year ago, and he did it during the toughest stretch of West’s schedule. Imagine what havoc Coburn can still create with games left against North Forsyth (0-5) and Johns Creek (0-5).

Manny Godswill, South Forsyth

Last season: Godswill had 57 tackles, a team-high seven sacks, five pass break-ups and three tackles for loss. He was named first-team all-Region 6-AAAAAA and all-county.

This season: The senior linebacker has 18 tackles, five tackles for loss and four sacks in five games for South (4-1).

The verdict: Godswill has been steady this season. Really, that’s all South has needed him to be as the War Eagles have gotten off to a 4-1 start. But they’ll need more in the second half. South’s first five games were against teams that went a combined 5-20 entering Friday. Its final five games are against teams that went 13-12.

Jeremy Johnson, Lambert

Last season: Johnson had 69 tackles, 13 pass break-ups, six interceptions and one forced fumble. He was named first-team all-region and all-county and selected to play in the Georgia Junior Bowl.

This season: The senior safety has 17 tackles and one interception for Lambert (2-3). Johnson also has three kick-off returns for touchdowns.

The verdict: Last year’s runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year had a tough act to follow, especially after making a name for himself with the stats and scholarship offers and Georgia Junior Bowl appearance. His defensive stats suggest Johnson is having a quiet season so far, but his three touchdowns on kickoff returns are a reminder of just how dangerous Johnson can be.

Trevon McSwain, Lambert

Last season: McSwain had 67 tackles, 16 quarterback hurries, nine sacks, seven tackles for loss, four pass break-ups and two forced fumbles at Lanier.

This season: The senior defensive end, who is committed to Duke, has nine tackles in three games for Lambert.

The verdict: There was palpable excitement when McSwain transferred from Lanier this offseason. I mean, when’s the last time the county had a 6-foot-7, 240-pounder terrorizing quarterbacks? Exactly. But it’s hard not to be underwhelmed by McSwain’s production. Granted, he was hampered by an allergic reaction in Lambert’s season-opener against Lanier and was out against Alpharetta with an injury. But does he has too far to catch up?

Victor Peppers, Forsyth Central

Last season: Peppers had 98 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks and two fumble recoveries as he was named all-region 7-AAAAA and all-county.

This season: The senior linebacker has 30 tackles, one tackle for loss, 0.5 sacks, one pass break-up and one fumble recovery for Central (3-2).

The verdict: Peppers isn’t on the prodigious tackling pace he was a year ago, but Central is a better overall defensive unit this season. The pass break-up and fumble recovery prove Peppers is making an impact. If his tackle numbers rise and the Bulldogs stay in the playoff hunt, Peppers’ stock would be restored.

Brian Paglia is sports editor at the Forsyth County News. He can be reached at, 770-205-8976 or follow him on Twitter at @BrianPaglia.