MOULTRIE – Are you ready for some actual football again in Colquitt County? Football practice at least?
Getting Justin Rogers settled in as the new head coach for the perennial championship contending Packers is done. Some new assistant coaches are trickling down from Jones County High and are making their faces and voices known to their new students. Familiar faces are also still in place, and while some are working with other Packers in preparation for spring state competition, there will be a time in the next few weeks when it will all come together and the new direction for this program can come to light.
Spring football practice, with all the pads and helmets and hitting and physicality and athleticism, begins May 1.
“The first objective of this first week and last week was making sure we get our verbiage and terminology down,” said Rogers, the former Jones County head coach hired April 15. “Understanding the offensive and defensive system verbiage wise. So much is so similar; they have to understand the language. Football is almost a language like Spanish.
“This week, we are going to identify fundamentals, getting good at fundamentals, our pad levels. We haven’t had the pads on (since the 2018 season ended in the state finals in December). Now you are getting used to playing with a helmet and pads. We have to have good inside hands and everything that goes along with that, getting physical at the point of attack.
“And find our depth. Find out where are our starters and where are our backups are coming from. Do we have guys in the right position? Do we need to change positions?”
The GHSA allows 10 padded practice days for spring football. One of those for Colquitt County will be taken up by the scrimmage game May 18 at Troy University in Alabama.
“So you really only get nine padded practices,” said Rogers. “No doubt you have to get a lot done. We will rotate, practice one day and one day do nothing but film and corrections. We can make sure we are doing both classroom work and field work.”
Rogers had several openings for his coaching staff upon arriving in Moultrie just over two weeks ago, and in that time there are just a few spots to fill. In some cases he knows who is coming but can’t officially release names.
As far as the holdovers from the 2018 staff, Rogers was bursting with excitement on how much, “I love them. Great guys!”
Troy Hobbs, in his second year on the staff, was named assistant head coach for the 2018 season. Also a receivers coach, Hobbs ran the football program in the absence of a head coach for a month-and-a-half.
“We are going to keep coach Hobbs as the assistant head coach with all that he does,” said Rogers, adding Hobbs is still working with wideouts and is the recruiting coordinator. “He is invaluable. His leadership’s been a testament to the type of person he is.”
David Hill, Colquitt’s other receivers coach, is returning. He joined the staff two years ago as did Hobbs. Buck Hanson, tight ends coach, will also return. Rogers said these are some sharp football minds in this group and they know the returning personnel.
“Defensively, we are keeping Mo Dixon on,” said Rogers. “Unbelievable coach. Well respected throughout the state. He will continue to work with our safeties. Coach (Dextra) Polite will work with our corners.”
Polite is also the head coach for Packer track and field, which has several qualifiers preparing for Saturday’s Class 7A sectional meet at McEachern High School.
Chad Nighbert, Rogers’ defensive coordinator at Jones County, is joining the staff as outside linebackers coach. Rogers said he will start working with the defensive line because his choice for that position can’t come down yet. Nighbert will be a co-defensive coordinator for Rogers with the Packers, and Rogers said the one who will call the coverages is Shawn Campbell, the inside linebackers coach.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” said Rogers. “A lot of energy.
“Offensively, we are bringing in Jimmy Dudley, who was my OC at Jones. He will come in and help with the O-line,” said Rogers, who will call the offensive plays. “Running backs coach, we are bringing in Travis Billings from Lassiter, and a tight ends coach, Justin Akin, is coming from Blessed Trinity.”
Rogers must also learn that a starting cornerback signed with LSU, a starting lineman signed with Auburn, the greatest placekicker in high school ever signed with Florida State, and he won’t have other Division I linemen and linebackers. That doesn’t bother him, for when he arrived he found a rising senior class where some members built up their own impressive list of next-level offers.
“When you have a program like this, you are going to lose good players every year,” said Rogers. “But you have really good players coming back. That’s high school football. When you have an established program, you don’t rebuild. We are not going to rebuild. Those seniors were unbelievably talented. These other guys are ready to go. They will get their opportunity to go.”