Posted: Jul 16, 2014 9:45 AM
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The Cole Camp Bluebirds have turned into a model of consistency during Head Coach Kevin Shearer's time at the helm. They finished 2013 with their second consecutive 7-4 record, managing to go 3-0 in the Kaysinger Conference. 2014 does not figure to bode too differently for the Bluebirds, though playing in a new class could pose some complications. Coach Shearer says, "We bring back a good core group, but moving up to Class 2 will be a big jump." That core group, with the majority of both the offense and defense returning, will certainly make for an easier transition for Cole Camp.
Offense should again be the strong point for the Bluebirds. Last year's outfit averaged 31 points per game. The run-heavy approach averaged a whopping 284 rushing yards per game, and only 60 yards through the air. Similar numbers look to be in store, even with Cole Camp graduating three seniors from the backfield. Coach Shearer says, "We are returning our core group at the offensive line, and the team should understand what we are trying to accomplish offensively." What they are trying to accomplish is ball control with a keep-it-on-the-ground approach using the "I" formation. The O-line is all important here, and Shearer has quite the group to work with. Gargantuan senior Jesse Niccum (6-5, 330) leads the way up front along with junior Alex Cramer (5-10, 230). Both were First Team All-Conference players last year. They will be joined on the line by juniors Zach Sprinkle (6-3, 190) and J.R. Schrader (5-11, 175). Sprinkle had a fine sophomore campaign in which he earned Second Team All-Conference honors. Junior Chase Bryan (6-1, 200) will round out the line.
Cole Camp graduated two separate all-conference performers at Running Back, but with an O-Line such as this, finding success at that position should not be too difficult. Ready to shoulder the load of the carries are speedy senior Darryn Frain (5-9, 170) and junior Brandon Thoennes (5-9, 175). These two should pick up right where their graduated counterparts left off. Frain tallied two touchdowns a season ago on an incredible 8.5 yards per carry, while Thoennes scored five TDs on 5.4 yards per carry as a sophomore. The two will split carries, but it is Thoennes who is most likely to become the focal point of the Bluebirds offense. Junior Mayson Massingill (5-9, 165) will provide depth at the position.
The role of quarterback is more caretaker than playmaker in an offensive system such as this, so whether it's junior Nik Clifton (5-10, 170) or sophomore Jaycob Schrader (5-11, 175) who lines up under center for the Bluebirds, the transition from last year should be relatively smooth. There will be growing pains, sure, but Coach Shearer might decide to simply up the ground attack in those moments, an approach Cole Camp opponents will be unhappy to see. When a passing opportunity presents itself, though, the QB will have two massive tight end targets in senior Koby Knievel (6-5, 220), a First Team All-Conference player, and junior Kendall Shearer (6-3, 180), an all-around excellent athlete.
To better last year's record, though, the Cole Camp defense will have to cut down on allowing big scoring plays. The 2013 unit surrendered 26 points per game on 178 yards rushing and a miniscule 115 yards passing. The Bluebirds return a number of cornerstone pieces to the defense, and it's easy to imagine them improving across the board.
As on offense, the line will be the center of attention here. At Defensive Tackle, senior Zach Craig (5-11, 230), Knievel, and J.R. Schrader will all look to stuff the middle. Edging the line will be Sprinkle and Thoenness at DE. Thoenness and Knievel were both First Team Al-Conference performers, while Schrader made the Second Team. Throw in big senior Dalton Tucker (6-4, 250) and this group can be every bit as effective as their offensive equivalent.
The secondary returns two starters in Frain and junior Levi Hare (6-1, 165). They'll be tasked with mentoring with three newcomers to the DB crew: Holt Wrote (5- 10, 165), Austin Berendzen (5-9, 165), and Massingill. The Linebacker group should be reliable with Tyler Ward (5-9, 175) and Shearer coming back to cover the middle area of the field. Of his defense as a whole, Coach Shearer sees "good team speed to the ball." He plans on using multiple fronts to confuse opposing offenses, a scheme he feels his squad will be more comfortable with this season.
Moving up classes is never an easy task, but with the amount of upperclassmen on the Bluebirds this year, Shearer has just the group to do it. Cole Camp in 2014 will be deep and experienced. Their line on each side of the ball will be able to push teams around and dictate the pace and style of games. Shearer says, "This group plays hard and works hard, but will need individuals to step up." If those individuals do step up, and replace a strong group of graduated seniors, a playoff run could be in store for Cole Camp.
Pigskin's Pick: 5-4