When Eastside coach Troy Hoff asked his offensive line coach, Trey Camps if he was interested in getting his guys into a summer camp exclusively for linemen, Camps was so emphatic about it, he was ready to pile up the frequent flyer miles, if necessary, to get them there.
“I don’t care if it’s in North Carolina or if it’s in Alaska, if we can get in pads and get some contact, we’re just stealing reps,” Camps said.
Camps’ mindset comes from the fact that working on a lineman’s craft is difficult to do without contact.
“The area where we always kind of need to catch up during the offseason is up front, and that’s hard to do when you aren’t able to put the pads on,” Hoff said. “I think most coaches will tell you that, though. Unless you’ve got five guys returning who’ve played together, that group always takes time. We’d like to speed that up. But you need to get the pads on for that. Technique work is great, but there’s only so much you can do.”
Camps, no doubt, is glad that his head coach understands this. The result of that understanding was Eastside involving their linemen in as many padded camps and linemen camps as possible during the offseason.
Hoff points to a mid-July stretch when his team took part in a two-day team padded camp at Parkview that came on the heels of a three-day lineman challenge event with lots of running and full contact work.
And given that Georgia High School Association rules don’t allow for consistent full contact work in regular high school practices until roughly two weeks before the season begins, any sanctioned pad popping is priceless for Camps.
“You can’t put a value amount on that,” Camps said. “When we’re not in pads, we do what we can to make sure our techniques are sound, but those camps allow you to do some things that are more physical than what you can do in summer workouts. Because you’re not only playing full contact, but doing it against great competition that we wouldn’t normally see.”
This particular offseason, the extra work was particularly crucial. That’s because Eastside’s losses up front will be hard to compensate for. Only two full time starters — Lamarius Benson and Mareka Reid — from last year have graduated. But they were both invaluable to Eastside’s region-leading rushing offense.
Now Camps will be counting on the leadership of returning talent such as senior Dustin Morgan who started all 11 games at left tackle in 2017 and juniors Pierce Downs and Bryant Byrd who played a total of 20 games at center and right tackle respectively.
That trio will welcome new trenchermen in senior Christian Curry who last year wrestled for Eastside in the heavyweight division, along with sophomore Austin King and freshman James Amos who starred at Cousins Middle last year.
“James is actually a little bit ahead of where most freshmen are, so we’re giving him all he can handle right now,” Camps said.
The most noticeable difference in Eastside’s line this year will be the absence of a big body like Benson. The 6-foot-3, 330-pounder is now vying for playing time as a freshman at UCF. But Camps says the combination of Eastside’s fast-paced offensive scheme and the talent of its skill players should make things a little easier for the big guys up front.
“We’re never gonna turn down the big behemoths,” Camps said. “We’ll always figure out how to get those guys on the field. But the fact is, typically you’re not going to get that big behemoth body type, so you look for kids who are hard nosed and coachable — the five you’d wanna be in a fight with, no matter how big or small.
“And the truth is, when you’ve got running backs like Taylor Carter, Quincy (Cullins) and Terrance (Reid), you don’t have to do much. If you’re willing to just stick your nose in it and give good effort, we’ve got the kind of skill guys who are gonna make you look good up front.”
Returning starters on offense: WR Jamari Brown, WR Colby Shivers, RB Taylor Carter, RB Quincy Cullins, QB Noah Cook, OL Dustin Morgan, OL Bryant Byrd, K Kade Mote
Returning starters on defense: DB Jamari Brown, DB Taylor Carter, LB Dalton Whitley, DT Tomarkus Woods
Key departures: DB Jaylon Lackey, ATH Brayden Harper, LB Rico Ruffin, DE Tanner Feeney, OL Lamarius Benson, DT Spurgeon Gaither
Key Newcomers: DT Josh Hightower, LB Devin Brown, OL Jordan Strange, RB Ramon Hernandez, OL James Amos
When on offense: The spread tempo offense is one Eastside has grown accustomed to running. Last season, their incredible run game that saw the team eclipse 3500 rushing yards in 11 games will help set up the passing game with quarterback Noah Cook entering his second season behind center. Hoff’s primary goal on offense is to make opposing defenses cover the entire field.
When on defense: The Eagles run multiple fronts on defense depending on the personnel. They will look to use this to their advantage to confuse every offense in their path. Tomarkus Woods will be the leader on the defensive line, and his run stuffing ability, along with his linebackers behind him can make opposing teams one-dimensional with ease.
When on special teams: Hoff believes that special teams is another 1/3 of the game they have to try to win every chance they get. Kicker Kade Mote has an incredibly strong leg that can accurately kick from fifty plus out, much like his rival kicker at Alcovy, Jose Ramos.
Key Games: 8/24 vs Newton, 8/31 @ Alcovy, 10/5 @ Woodward Academy, 10/12 vs Salem
CoachSpeak: “Our goal is to always compete every snap and be in a position to win the game in the fourth quarter. That’s always been our thing. Let’s get to the fourth quarter, keep it close and see what happens.”
8/17: at Ola, 7:30 p.m.
8/24: vs. Newton, 7:30 p.m. at Sharp Stadium
8/31: vs. Alcovy, 7:30 p.m. at Sharp Stadium
9/13 at North Clayton, 7 p.m.
9/27: vs. Luella, 7:30 p.m.
10/5: at Woodward Academy, 7:30 p.m.
10/12: vs. Salem, 7:30 p.m.
10/18: vs. Druid Hills, 7:30 p.m.
10/26 vs. Henry County, 7:30 p.m.
11/2: at Hampton, 7:30 p.m.