Projected starters (offense):
either No. 3 Zuri Minnifield or No. 9 Kalil Dunn (not yet decided)
No. 5 Devon Williams, No. 6 Keijne Thomas
No. 57 Nigel Whitted, No. 58 Toney Smith
No. 55 Breone Atkins, No. 60 Hubert Henderson
No. 52 Blake Davis
No. 11 Bryce Fennell, No. 2 Tarjee Steele, No. 1 TJ (Tajuan) Warren
Projected starters (defense):
No. 41 Mike Murray, No. 45 Keythone Robinson, No. 20 Aaron Harris
No. 42 Donat Clennon, No. 44 Damien Scott, No. 48 Nate Huggins, No. 50 Ryan Ross, No. 55 Breone Adkins
No. 1 TJ (Tajuan) Warren, No. 6 Keijne Thomas, No. 7 Sean Mer, No. 8 Malik Dawkins
T.J. (Tajuan) Warren, Blake Davis, Malik Dawkins
Bryce Fennell (WR)
To kick off the season, Rockdale County head coach Venson Elder and the Bulldogs will take on the Heritage Patriots on August 22. Elder answers questions on his returning talent, what kind of style we can expect Rockdale to play and more.
The Rockdale News: Tell me a little bit about your returning starters. How do you feel about the people you have coming back?
Venson Elder: Got a mixture of juniors and seniors this year coming back off last year's team. The top returners are: Blake Davis, our starting center - he was first team all-region last year. Keijne Thomas was one of our starting running backs - he'll be splitting time this year with Devon Williams who returned back from ML-King, Zuri Minnifield fighting for his starting position, he's got some competition this year with Kalil Dunn so that's good positive competition going on. I think the main guy this year is gonna be T.J. (Tajuan) Warren. He's being recruited by some of everybody in the country right now and he's got a great upside to him. He's also one of our track kids, along with Malik Dawkins. Most of our kids run track. The track team builds this football program. I try to explain to them that football is made up of angles - the faster you cover the angles the better you are. Now they've bought into the picture after two years after two years seeing the difference between before they were running track and now running track, then playing football. So, we're excited with those guys and looking for a good year this year.
RN: Coach, where do you want to be at the end of the season, as far as team progress and overall record?
Elder: Your goal is to win a state championship. Our journey on this road is to get to the Georgia Dome. If we don't get there, that'll be heartfelt for us, but we wanna win anywhere between nine and 11 games this year.
RN: What goals do you have for yourself, individually, and for the team overall?
Elder: My goal is to get these kids into college. Last year we signed 13 on signing day and we signed a couple after that, making it the biggest signing class in Rockdale County history. You can combine Salem and Heritage signees and they still wouldn't catch us. So the key for us as coaches is get these kids a free education. So being a student-athlete means just that, being a student-athlete. You gotta get it in the classroom in order to make it to the college level.
RN: What player are you looking for to step up and have a big season, who can have a major impact on your team?
Elder: T.J. Warren. No doubt about it. We're putting the pressure on him, we're putting the weight on his shoulders. He's gonna have to step up and make the plays. He gotta make it happen, he gotta lead this team this year.
RN: Tell us about what kind of style you figure you guys are gonna play this year.
Elder: I have a new offensive coordinator, so we're gonna surprise some people when we come out these first few games. We're gonna snap that ball every six to eight seconds. We're gonna turn it up a little bit, put a little pressure on the defense. We're gonna spread them out, we're also gonna grind the football. We're gonna take what the defense gives us, then if we wanna dictate to them, we'll do that. But, ya know, we won't be predictable. And on the defensive side of the ball we're coming on every play.