• 73°

Pilcher ready for spring practice

Coach Ed Pilcher, one of the most respected and successful head football coaches in Georgia, will send his second Bainbridge High School Bearcats team through their first day of spring practice Thursday at Centennial Field.

While losing some key performers, like first-team All-State defensive back Marquis Williams, All-Region 1AAAA receiver Melzie Johnson, All-Region 1AAAA offensively linemen Jaron Ousley, Ben Reynolds and Wiley Griffin, and All-Region 1AAAA linebackers Eric Henry and Brian Hughes to graduation, the Bearcats have some key performers returning.

Two of those performers are a pair of veteran quarterbacks, junior Rohan Gaines and senior James Hudson. Both got better and better at the split-back veer offense, which Pilcher installed last season.

The other day I was talking with Bearcats offensive coordinator Leonard Guyton, who was quarterback on two of Pilcher’s five state Class AAAA championship teams at Central, and he told me he was really looking forward to working with his two quarterbacks in the spring.

He talked about what fine young men and fine athletes Gaines and Hudson are.

The split-back veer offense is not used by many teams, so it is difficult for teams to prepare their defense for it in just a week’s time.

It is, as Pilcher and Guyton point out, a high-risk, high-reward offense. The quarterback must read the defense and decide whether to keep the ball himself and turn upfield, pitch out to a running back or drop back to pass.

If you can minimize the turnovers and penalties, you can pick up some huge chunks of yardage in the split-back veer.

Senior running back Thomas Smiley, who had a strong junior season, should get a lot of carries in the regular season. He has good speed and moves, and is very elusive.

The Bearcats offensive line will again be anchored by senior Jackson Kendrick, who performed extremely well after taking over from Reynolds, who was moved from center to guard.

Junior Jim Griffin should also be a solid performer along the offensive front.

Junior Shawn Samuel, who plays wide receiver and defensive back and also returns kicks, probably has as much sheer speed as anyone on the team.

The Bearcats special teams, with junior place kicker and punter Keenan Adams leading the way, could be as good as anybody’s in the 2009 season. Adams has a very strong leg and outstanding range as a place kicker and punter.

With some strong offensive and defensive parts and a solid kicking game, the Bearcats should provide a lot of excitement in the coming season.

The foundation for the season always begins with spring practice. Without week-to-week games to prepare for like in the regular season, coaches will have the opportunity to spend some quality, individual time with the players.

Prior to varsity spring practice, coach Pilcher and his staff spent a few days working with the upcoming ninth-graders. It gave him a look into the future, and that is always good to do.