By David Friedlander
Photo by Karl L. Moore
As many high school football programs around Gwinnett County have learned this spring and summer, change is seldom easy.
Such has been the case at Collins Hill as the Eagles adjust to new head coach Lenny Gregory and all the newness surrounding the program.
But it is how such a team deals with those changes that determines exactly how smooth the transition will be, and based on what he’s seen so far this summer, Gregory is pleased.
That is particularly with a senior class that has the biggest adjustments to make after spending its whole career with the staff under former head coach Kevin Reach.
And in this day and age, in which there is a lot of transience among high school football players, it has pleased Gregory most that the bulk of the Eagles’ senior class of 2018 has stuck with the program when it when would have been easy to leave, particularly following a difficult junior season in 2017.
“I know a lot of kids who have moved on when there have been changes like this,” Gregory said. “But this senior class stayed. They stayed because of the friendships they’ve made (with teammates). They’re special kids.
“They went 2-8 last year, and 2-8 (seasons) are tough. They could’ve gone somewhere else. That they didn’t speaks volumes of this senior class.”
There’s still plenty for this year’s seniors, and the rest of the Eagles, to get used to even before preseason practice starts at the end of the month.
Gregory points out that the transition will likely be a little easier for the defense and not just because several key starters are returning from last year, including Wake Forest-committed safety Peyton Woulard and junior defensive end Tomari Fox.
“They were a 3-4 (base defense) last year, and we’re pretty much (still) a 3-4,” Gregory said. “So they are familiar with that scheme. It’s not as foreign to them. Now the offense is all new.”
Indeed, after using a wide-open, pass-happy spread attack the last several seasons, the Collins Hill offense figures to have a radical new look this fall.
While Gregory insists his team won’t hesitate to put the ball in the air when it needs to, there will be a lot more balance in an offense that will definitely force some adjustments from both the Eagles and their opponents.
“They were more zone and spread (before), and we’re (now) a lot more gaps,” Gregory said. “Our base is a wing-T, and we’ll build from there.
“It’s been a different summer routine. It is a bit of a culture shock, but we have enough stuff in general to keep everyone involved. We’re still going to throw the ball, but we’ve definitely got a good group of running backs.”
While last year’s leading rusher, Jonathan Postell, is no longer with the program, the Eagles do return Evan Anderson, who accounted for more than 500 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns last season, as well as fellow senior Naji Germana, who is healthy again after missing his junior season last year due to injury.
Most importantly, Gregory says that the offensive players, taking a cue from the senior class, have gone into learning the new sets with a positive attitude.
“The kids like it,” Gregory said. “There have been zero complaints. We’ll still get some competition at quarterback, but (the new system) will take some pressure off the quarterbacks.”
As for the quarterback, Gregory said there is plenty of competition among several candidates to take over the starting job under center.
But as with any new system, there is still much to learn even before the Eagles put the pads on for the first time in a few weeks.
“We’re leaving (Tuesday) for an OTA kind of camp down at Colquitt County,” Gregory said. “I’ll have a lot more answers about his team and what direction we’re going when we get back on Friday. When we come back, we’ll have next week to get acclimated, and then the first week (of practice) is on.”