MOULTRIE – Needless to say, many – if not all – members of the 2019 Colquitt County High football team know each other and possess a good idea of what each other can do on the gridiron.
What really changes the most in a high school program year after year is the cast of characters in the teaching roles. That’s especially true when a new man enters town in the leadership position.
Justin Rogers, hired in mid-April as Colquitt County High’s new head coach, assembled together a group of assistants, some of whom most likely never met before arriving in Moultrie. There are six new faces donning Packer attire plus five Rogers was able to retain from the 2018 staff. The newcomers needed to learn who these Colquitt County players who came so close to winning a state title last December are and how they would mesh with the rest of the staff, and they had to do it in a hurry.
It was really only two months and 10 days ago that all of these coaches got together for the first time as some had to end their obligations with their previous employer. Rogers said it’s been a smooth transition for everyone this summer as players got used to the new personalities and styles from their instructors, and vice versa.
“There will still be a process of learning how to work well together on a Friday night,” said Rogers. “Working out the kinks of communication. But we have some really good coaches, and even better some good men.”
One of the newcomers got a close-up look at the Packers last season. Greg Carswell is a former assistant at Grayson High School, which also made a head coaching change this offseason. Carswell is in charge of Colquitt County’s defensive line.
“He is an unbelievably good defensive line coach,” said Rogers. “He does a great job with hands technique and pad level. He’s a very knowledgeable young coach. He has high character who will be able to teach our linemen values.”
The one assistant who followed Rogers to Colquitt from Jones County High is the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jimmy Dudley.
“We go back all the way to college together,” said Rogers. “We coached at Harris County together also. He’s my dear friend. Been in my wedding. He’s one who will be easy to work with on Friday night.”
If you look at Carswell, Dudley and Justin Akins, you will have to be more specific if asking who is the one with the beard. Akins is the tight ends coach who worked at Blessed Trinity. The new clean shaved coach is former Lassiter coach Travis Billings, in charge of running backs. Lassiter is another school that made a head coaching change when Jep Irwin – after nine seasons – went to Whitley County in Kentucky.
“Me and Jep are really good friends,” said Rogers. “When I was looking for a running backs coach, he called me and said ‘I got one for you.’ The systems me and Jep run are very similar, so we were able to work that out and get coach Billings here. He is very knowledgeable in the spread system we run, so it was an easy transition for him with terminology.”
And in Billings’ little group is a senior with a chance to be Colquitt County’s all-time leading rusher, senior Daijun Edwards.
In one of the bigger positions for Rogers is defensive coordinator, held by Shawn Campbell.
“Coach Campbell and coach (Chad) Nighbert are working together on the defense,” said Rogers about those who position-wise are in charge of the linebackers. “They are working well together, still having to blend the verbiage with the calls. Coach Campbell is an unbelievably hard worker. You can tell he’s an extremely loyal guy, very passionate.”
Of course Rogers is extremely thankful for Troy Hobbs, Mo Dixon, Buck Hanson, David Hill and the lifelong (save for his time as a Clemson Tiger) Packer Dextra Polite.
“Solid coaches. Solid men,” said Rogers. “So incredibly blessed to have them stay on staff. They know where things might need to be tweaked and changed and where things need to be kept the same.”