There are just 39 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2017 high school football season. But make no mistake, preparations for the upcoming campaign got underway months ago in weight rooms, sand pits and practice fields throughout the state. And teams throughout northeast Georgia are in full countdown mode.
With that in mind we spent the last few days catching up with programs around our area to get a feel for how spring practice went, how the summer is going and what coaches believe the fall will look like. We call the series "Two-a-Days" in honor of those old-school grinding sessions that lead us out of summer and into fall, asking each area coach two key questions about the state of their respective programs.
Over the next few days, AccessWDUN's Friday Game Night will get you prepped for the start of gridiron action with responses from coaches throughout northeast Georgia. (Teams run in alphabetical order, twice daily)...
John Ford is used to coaching at the top of the GHSA, leading Roswell to back-to-back state championship games in the state's highest classification during the the 2015-16 seasons. Now Ford has taken control of perhaps the top coaching position in the state, as he replaces seven-time state champion Jess Simpson, who stepped down in the offseason and is now an assistant with the Atlanta Falcons. Ford's teams at Roswell played with a wide-open spread offense -- a different style from the pounding, ground attack the Wolves utilized over the past two decades of success that helped them to 10 of their 11 state crowns. Yet with the caliber of athletes on hand and the mindset already in place at Buford, Ford believes that the transitions under way could prove relatively smooth.
QUESTION: What's been the biggest challenge for your staff during the transition this summer? Have their been any growing pains?
ANSWER: There haven't been a lot in that regard because you're not having to change a culture, because the coaching that was done in the past has been such high quality, and the players are great players that know how to work hard; they know how to compete and they know how to practice. So they do all those things exceptionally well. From that standpoint it hadn't been hard; it's really been an easy transition from that standpoint.
Q: Coming from a Class AAAAAAA program at Roswell, it appeared last season you had a lot of players focusing solely on offense or defense. Buford has traditionally had players starring on both sides of the ball. Are you going to continue to play players on both sides or get guys focusing more on one side than the other?
A: We've got to get our best players on the field. And we are stupid if we don't have a kid like Anthony Grant on the field, Bryson Richardson or Jamaal Singleton on the field or a Harry Miller on the field as often as is intelligent from a repetition and freshness standpoint. We did more two-way at Roswell than most people probably realized or looked into simply because we were one of the smaller AAAAAAA schools. We didn't have the depth of a Grayson or a Mill Creek, so a lot of those guys repped both ways. Shoot, last year one of our emergency defensive backs was also our quarterback. So if it means putting a great player on the field and putting Buford in the best position to win we'll put anybody anywhere.