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Area football teams back to the grind
SHS Football
Statesboro High head coach Jeff Kaiser calls a play during spring football practice on Thursday at Womack Field. The Blue Devils are one of two Bulloch County teams electing to hold contact drills during the spring. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Spring practice has begun for many high schools throughout the state of Georgia. Locally the only two teams having spring drills which include contact are the Statesboro Blue Devils and the Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jackets.


With the Jackets hiring Jared Zito they will have a busy time implementing his offense and defense, but the Statesboro Blue Devils will have plenty of new faces on their coaching staff as well. 


The Blue Devils lost offensive coordinator Greg Hill recently as he accepted the head coaching position at Claxton High School. Defensive line coaches Justin Griffith left for Camden County and Josh Coleman left for Morgan County and linebackers coach Josh Hall left as well.


Coach Kaiser will not fill Hill’s position and will run the offense himself. The Blue Devils have hired former Georgia Southern alum Kelton Elvine from Bleckley County as linebacker coach and Georgia Southern graduate Cole Norsworthy to assist David NeSmith with the offensive line. Kaiser has also moved Jerel Danzy from offensive line coach to defensive line.


“We had some attrition on our coaching staff and have had to make some replacements,” said Kaiser. “Unfortunately, some of them won’t be here until the summer due to contractual obligations with their current jobs. It’s been a good transition so far and we look forward to getting into football mode.”


The Blue Devils are coming off a 4-7 season but were 3-3 in region play and earned the No. 4 seed in the state tournament where they feel to No. 1 seed Evans 42-21. Kaiser has 115 players who are participating in spring drills and returns quite a few players from last year’s squad. He is hoping to use spring practice to get better and to find some replacements for the departing seniors.


“We are hoping to continue to build on the progress we made during the season and in the weight room,” said Kaiser. “We need to identify what we have in the spots we lost to graduation. Offensively it starts with having to find a quarterback to step up. On defense we have to replace our linebackers who had a lot of experience.”


Despite having to deal with COVID related shutdowns, one area Kaiser has been pleased with over the past school year has been the progress the Blue Devils have made in the weight room.


“In our weight room we have our weight boards,” said Kaiser. “This is the first time in four years our boards are full. We set a minimum the players must reach to be put on the board in three lifts and with the exception of one lift they are all full. Our kids have worked their behinds off, and they are reaping the benefits of that now.’


Last year high no Georgia high school teams was able to participate in spring practice and while there are still COVID-19 concerns Kaiser is feels spring practice will really benefit the Blue Devils.


“Last year after so spring practice we played four football games with kids quarantined and we were forced to play some young kids who weren't ready to play varsity football and it turned some of those young kids off from football,” said Kaiser. “We are going to ease into the spring, and it has been great so far. The attitudes have been great the culture is great, and we are very excited.”


“A couple of our top players are not with us this week (Jordan Lovett and Kam Mikell) because they are competing in the state track meet,” said Kaiser. “That is a good thing though as we are happy our players are competing in other sports as well. Seven of the nine starters on the baseball team which advanced to the Sweet-16 were football players. You are seeing a lot more of our teams here competing in the state which is something we are all after.”


The Blue Devils will not hold a spring game this year due to COVID concerns. Statesboro opens the 2021 season Aug. 21 against Wayne County at Paulson Stadium as part of the Erk Russell Classic.