Busy offseason produces big changes for 2016

Article and photos courtesy of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution –> Original Article Here

FootballIt has been 230 days since Colquitt County defeated Roswell 30-13 in the Class AAAAAA championship game in the Georgia Dome. That marked the end of the 2015 Georgia high school football season.

Just days later, GHSF Daily called it a year and published its final issue. Were we missed?

Well, one reader sent an e-mail in July, asking, “Jeff Herron is at Grayson? When did that happen?”

Yes, stuff happens, even in the dark months of January-July.

Here is a countdown of the 10 top news stories in Georgia high school football during the offseason:

10. GHSA approves spring games: The GHSA in April approved spring football games beginning in 2017. They may be played on the 10th day of spring practice. Spring games had ranked high on the wish list of Georgia coaches, as expressed by Rabun County’s Lee Shaw and several others in GHSF Daily’s “Four Questions” feature. Said Shaw, “It would give players a purpose for a great spring practice and it would excite the community while adding another gate to the athletic budget, which we all need.”

9. Corky Kell adds a third day: The Corky Kell Classic, the season-opening set of games that will be played for the 25th time this season, expanded into Middle Georgia and added a third day, a Thursday, to accommodate it.It’s not unusual for the season to begin on a Thursday, but this season those games will have some marquee value with Mercer University staging Houston County vs. Mary Persons and then Lee County vs. Jones County.Games will be played Friday at McEachern (highlighted by Buford vs. Roswell) and the usual Saturday fare at the Georgia Dome.

8. Jake Fromm to Georgia: Scout.com reports that 90 Georgia players have committed to Division I programs in the offseason. The first, coincidentally, was the current No. 1-rated Georgia recruit, Richard LeCounte of Liberty County. LeCounte chose Georgia on Dec. 13. The most newsworthy was the commitment flip of Jake Fromm, the Houston County senior who is rated the No. 3 pro-style quarterback prospect nationally. Fromm had pledged to Alabama. On March 3, he switched to Georgia.

7. Ed Pilcher steps down: Ed Pilcher, whose 250 victories ranked fifth among active Georgia football coaches, resigned in early May, citing health reasons. Pilcher is best known for his great teams at Thomas County Central (1991-2007) that won five state championships in the 1990s.Pilcher said he might return to the sidelines, but not likely as a head coach.

6. IMG snags state’s No. 1 prospect: In the spring, the No. 1 recruit in Georgia was defensive end Robert Beal from Norcross.On May 27, it was reported thatBeal was transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.It’s not the loss of one five-star recruit that makes this newsworthy. (Beal has since committed to Georgia.) It’s the start of a trend. IMG also snagged another top-50 national recruit from Georgia, Archer defensive back Isaiah Pryor, an Ohio State commit. In 2015, former Buford tight end Isaac Nauta, now a freshman at Georgia, went to IMG. For those wanting to see the program up close, IMG will play at Grayson on Aug. 27. ESPN2 will televise it.

5. GHSA schedules released: This is much more interesting in even-numbered years because schedules work on two-year contracts. In other words, the 2016 schedules are all new. It was confirmed that Westminster, Marist and Blessed Trinity are playing games in Dublin in September. That would be Ireland, not Georgia. Greater Atlanta Christian is playing a Colorado champion in Denver. Grayson is traveling to Hoover, Ala. There are too many good games to mention. Among them: Roswell vs. Colquitt County, Roswell vs. Buford, Allatoona vs. Cartersville (two reigning state champions) and Westminster vs. Pace Academy (two more reigning champs).

4. GHSA ratifies realignment: The GHSA’s reclassification, highlighted by the addition of a seventh classification, was mostly an in-season story, but the plan was ratified in January.The highest classification – shall we call it AAAAAAA or 7A? – has only 48 schools, down from 64, but the other classes except Class A are not much bigger, in the mid-50s. The most interesting things in reclass, as it relates to football, are (1) Class AA is now without private schools, except for Benedictine, which managed to escape the private-school purge in ways that infuriated its Region 2-AA rivals; (2) Calhoun, Cartersville and Carrollton slipped the fish net that was supposed to lift city schools to higher classifications while Buford and Jefferson were caught, leaving observers to wonder why them and not those, and (3) Bremen really got the short straw. An innocuous city school with just-above Class A enrollment, Bremen is now in AAA essentially because its school district straddles the Haralson-Carroll county line and can hardly help getting more than the limit 3 percent of its enrollment from one county. But any logical solution to the Bremen pickle would’ve risked letting big fish Buford, which straddles the Gwinnett-Hall line, through the net.

3. Conn out; Herron in: Mickey Conn, who started Grayson’s football program in 2000 and led it to a state title in 2011, accepted a position on Clemson’s support staff in March. Conn and Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney were teammates and roommates at Alabama some 25 years ago.In just two weeks, Grayson found its replacement – Jeff Herron, who won four state titles at Camden County and Oconee County. Herron had been at Class A private-school Prince Avenue Christian in Athens the past three seasons.

2. Propst suspended. Not! Rush Propst, coach of two-time state champion Colquitt County, was suspended for a year by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, it was announced June 16. The commission objected to an incident that occurred in the Class AAAAAA semifinals against Mill Creek in December, when Propst head-butted a player on the helmet. Propst appealed – and won – in July. The penalty was reduced to a reprimand, and Propst will be back on the sidelines for the Packers’ season opener Aug. 20, a rematch against Mill Creek in the Georgia Dome.

1. All roads lead to Grayson: It’s not unusual for good football players to transfer, but what took place at Grayson this offseason was unprecedented. Five blue-chip recruits in the class of 2017 enrolled at a school that advanced to the Class AAAAAA semifinals in 2015 and already boasted the classification’s highest-rated quarterback, Chase Brice, a Clemson recruit. The Fab Five are (with their consensus state rankings as prospects) No. 2 DeAngelo Gibbs and No. 23 Breon Dixon from Peachtree Ridge, No. 6 Jamyest Williams from Archer, No. 15 Tony Gray from Central Gwinnett and No. 83 Kurt Taylor from Newton. Many compare the Grayson phenomenon to the moves NBA stars LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Join forces to win a championship. “That was exactly the idea,” Dixon said. “Leave a legacy in Georgia high school football.”

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