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May 12, 2006
2006 Football Preview: Camden County Wildcats
Kingsland (Ga) - Camden County head coach Jeff Herron is one of the most respected high school football coaches in the state of Georgia. Prior to his stint as head mentor of the Wildcats, coach Herron was the head football coach at Oconee County High School in Watkinsville (Ga). He led the Warriors to a 1999 Class 3A State Championship with a perfect record of 15-0.
Since Herron took over at Camden County in the fall of 2000, the Wildcats are 71-7 with five consecutive region championships. They were State Semi-Finalists in 2002, 2004 and the Class 5A State Champs in 2003.
Last season, Camden County lost a heartbreaker to Dacula 10-7, in the state quarterfinals. The Wildcats finished with a 12-1 record. It was a disappointing end to a season that many thought would be a Championship run.
Once again, optimism is HIGH for the 2006 Camden County squad due to a strong returning group of prospects and a mix of talented newcomers.
Key Losses for the Wildcats:
The Camden County offense will have a couple of new faces in 2006. Former Valdosta assistant Welton Coffey replaces Scott Carmichael as the new offensive coordinator. Coffey is a former state Coach of the Year in Florida from 1997. In that season Coffey led the Jacksonville Raines Vikings to the Class 4A state football title.
The Wildcats will also have to replace last year's starting quarterback Barry Johnson and make significant changes in their backfield.
"We're still trying to find our strengths on offense, of course, being only a couple of days into spring practice," said Herron. "But, you know, we have our offensive line back for the most part and we feel like that's got to be our strength right now. We are certainly a little bit green in the backfield. Although we feel like we've got some talented kids back there."
The Wildcats will have to flip-flop players in their traditional Wing-T to compensate for the loss of running backs Brandon West and Ashton Hall. Joshua Dickerson moves from tight end to one of the halfback positions, and Darian Scott who was a backup fullback, moves to the other halfback position. The quick-footed back, 5-foot-7, 180 pound, Mario Roberts will remain at fullback.
"Our fullback is a kid we know we can count on," said Herron. "I'm afraid his size may scare off some recruiters, but he's got great instincts, great cutting ability, extremely strong, and a powerful runner. He's a heck of a good player for us."
There will be two juniors fighting for the vacant quarterback position. Either A.J. McCray or Major Herron (son of coach Jeff Herron) will come out of spring practice as the number one starter. GAVarsity.com reports are that speedster A.J. McCray is the leading candidate for the position.
At 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, Ernesto Herring is having a great spring practice and will anchor an offensive line that is very solid.
"We moved Adam from linebacker to defensive end last year when Rennie got hurt," said Herron. "We talked about moving him back, but he's just so good at defensive end. At our level, people can't block him because of his quickness. I think he'll wind up playing linebacker or safety at college.'
"Rennie committed to Clemson last week," said Herron. "He missed all of last year with a broken leg, but he's an extremely talented kid. His absence caused us to develop some depth, but we're glad to have him back."
"Speed can make up for a lot of other shortcomings I think," said Herron. "We always look for kids who can run first. Take Adam for example, who could be safety or linebacker, but we're playing him at defensive line. We always try to get as much speed as we can on the defensive side of the ball and use it running to the football."
The leader for coach Herron on defense is 6-foot-4, 175-pound, safety Willie White. He has offers from Florida State, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia Tech. White could play at receiver some this year because of his athleticism, but primarily, he will play at free safety for the Wildcats. He's the kind of player that gets everybody lined up and gets everybody straight on defense. He knows what's going on everywhere on the field.
Vincent Smith is another player to watch on defense for Camden County. Smith is a tough and highly competitive inside linebacker. His instincts enable him to read and react to the play quicker than you expect and his all-out effort on every snap helps him to find a way to make plays.
"Smith's the kind of kid everybody would like to coach," said Herron. "He's a straight A student. He really started coming into his own last year and he can fly. I think he will play safety at the next level. He's a big time baseball prospect as well."
"Every team will kind of create it's own destiny," said Herron. "Our expectations are simple every year. We're trying to become state champions. Honestly, whether it's good or bad, we're not satisfied if that doesn't happen. It's frustrating sometimes to feel that way, but we think this is a team that has a legitimate chance to do it, just like there are several teams in the state that do. But we feel like we have as good a chance as anybody. If things go well and you don't get kids hurt, then hopefully, we'll have that opportunity."
With a 48-22 victory over Bradwell Institute in 2005, Camden County set a state record for the longest regular season winning streak at 56 straight games. Their last loss was in week four of the 2000 season. That record may be in jeopardy as the 2006 season approaches. The Wildcats will get tested early in a matchup with Class 5A runner-up Brookwood to open the season. The game will be played at the Georgia Dome as part of the Corky Kell Classic on Sept. 2nd.
*2006 Corky Kell Classic - Georgia Dome:
**2006 South Georgia Classic - Kingsland (Ga):