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Yellow Jackets Building Scary Defensive Unit

By Adam Carrington (, 06/01/12, 1:00AM EDT


Sprayberry’s defense loaded with experience

The coaching staff isn’t going to complain about having eight returning starters on the defensive side of the ball as well as the talent to push them.

All had productive spring practices, but the coaches are still seeking starters with leadership potential. Linebacker Terrell Brownridge and Myles Atkins both exemplified that leadership needed last season to help guide a young Sprayberry team into the Class AAAA state playoffs last season with a 5-6 overall record. They also finished with a combined 243 tackles.

“This time of year is good for evaluating talent and trying to find out where to plug guys into our summer and fall plans,” Sprayberry coach Billy Shackelford said. “Don’t get me wrong, we are a long way from where we need to be for the 2012 season, but I’m very excited about what I saw in regards of effort, attitude and coachability.”

In regards of defensive leadership, the Yellow Jackets have a selection from which to choose.

Upcoming senior linebackers Tevin Moore, Torrey Richardson and Antuan Johnson and senior cornerback Willie Dorcin are four with leadership potential who have talent to be the heart of the defense. Senior defensive tackle Malik Young is back to anchor the defensive line, along with junior free safety Charles Cook.

But the defense also has a slew of sophomores who had great spring practices that could potentially dethrone a couple of starters.

“I’m really impressed with our upcoming sophomores,” Shackelford said. “We have five or six that are not only competing for playing time, but also for starting positions.”

Sophomore Rakeem Myricks had a productive spring and could be a starting candidate for linebacker as well as running back on offense. Sophomore Paul Ajukwara was also solid during spring drills on the defensive line, [where] sophomore Hayden Langston could [also] compete for a spot.

While Sprayberry’s defense appears to be in good shape, the Yellow Jackets used spring practice to address its offensive needs. The Yellow Jackets lost most of last year’s starters — led by quarterbacks Corbin Jackson and Jacob Chesser — to graduation and injuries.

Sprayberry has just four starters returning on the offensive side of the ball, but one of them is leading rusher Corey Cooper, who finished with 680 rushing yards on 118 carries.

The Yellow Jackets were hit with combination of injuries and graduation on the offensive line but do have experience returning. Kyle Thomas is healthy after injuring his knee last season and upcoming juniors Josh Gibson and Skylar Shaw return after starting a few games on varsity last season.

Sprayberry, however, will be inexperienced at both quarterback and receiver but isn’t struggling with a lack of depth and talent. Hank Harris and Shane Young are the top two candidates for quarterback, and the Yellow Jackets have as many as six different receivers competing for positions, including Dorcin, a speedster who [won] the 1,600 relay at the [AAAA] state track meet this year.

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