There are just 27 days remaining until the kickoff of the 2022 high school football season. But make no mistake, preparations for the upcoming campaign got underway months ago. And teams throughout northeast Georgia already are in full countdown mode.
With that in mind, we spent the last couple of weeks 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. Our "Two-a-Days" series honors 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 two weeks, 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)...
The Red Elephants are under new management, and they have made no bones about the fact they are ready to get back in the winning column. Former Hoover, Ala. coach Josh Niblett has already revitalized over-the-top excitement for the program in just six months.
But on the field, they still have some questions to answer, especially along the offensive line. We asked coach Niblett about the renewed excitement in the program and how quickly they can put together a unit up front to help pace an up-tempo offense.
QUESTION: Coach, in just six months, you have brought a level of excitement to the program that hasn’t been seen in a decade. Has the transition gone better than you expected when you arrived from Hoover?
ANSWER: "I think the two situations were different but seeking the same destination…winning championships. At Hoover, they had won 5 championships from 2000-2007, so for me, it was building the culture I felt we needed but continue to win championships. At Gainesville, it was a little different. Everybody is starving for winning again. The last championship was 2012. They want someone to lead them and help grow the community. We are chasing winning every day. Our MO is “Best is the Standard” in all we do. We have a system within our standard that demands everyone in the program to be All In in all things. I feel like God called me here for many reasons. To make an impact on our players and staff while educating, supporting and challenging our community to be a valuable part of our process. There is a lot of excitement right now, and everybody is learning each day about who we are and who we will be as a program. I love coaching our players and staff on a daily basis. I have surrounded myself with great people, so great things are going to happen (here). This is not about me or any individual in this program; this is about the family collectively holding each other accountable to our Standard."
Q: The offensive line seemed to take the biggest hit from graduation. How has progress gone during the spring and summer in rebuilding that unit?
A: "Up front offensively, we will be young but really good for many years. Christian Hunnicutt, our offensive line coach, is one of the best teachers and motivators of offensive linemen I have ever been around. We just need experience and reps. We are trying to put our guys in as many situations as possible to help them grow up a little quicker. I will tell you this, we have really good leadership up front. This is already a tight-knit group. I’m excited for them and the positive impact they will have on our offense. This group continues to grow depth every day. It takes a special toughness and unselfishness to play offensive line, and this group knows its identity."