BROOKLET – The times, they are a-changing for Southeast Bulloch.
Monday marked the first day of fall practice for the SEB football team and the Yellow Jackets are hard at work looking to ensure a brighter 2010 campaign than previous seasons have produced.
Leading the way this season is newly named head coach Pat Collins. After successful stints at Portal and Screven County, Collins now brings his X’s and O’s to Brooklet, where SEB is trying to get its once-thriving program back on track.
“What’s most important is that we keep going from our productive summer,” said Collins. “We had some great workouts, and now we’re getting the feel for the new practice schedule.”
A bright spot for SEB is that almost all of last season’s starters will return this season and many juniors and seniors are in positions to step up and lead with their experience.
“We’ve got several returners that we’ll depend on,” said Collins. “Dee Odum is a senior athlete that can play all over the field. He’s a good player and he’ll help on both sides of the ball. David Johnson could be a force as a running back and will help on the defensive line. We also have seniors in Ryan Howell, William Reynolds and David Pollard on the offensive line. In order for us to be successful, we’ll need them to help out.”
Key to revitalizing an offense that struggled to put points on the board last season will be Odum and Johnson. Odum showed great versatility out of the backfield in 2009. He lined up under center, as the featured back, and even as a receiver to shift defenses and try to take advantage of his great speed. Johnson -- who has impressive speed for a 250-pound player -- also has the ability to pound the middle and wear down defenses.
“I think that having another year under our belts helps,” said Odum. “We’re all excited. The new coaches have made some changes that I think can make us better. I’m willing to do whatever or play in any position to help us out.”
The leadership will be there, but the Jackets still have a long road in front of them.
SEB enters the 2010 season on a 19-game losing streak that dates back to the beginning of the 2008 season and is among the longest in the state.
Collins acknowledged that there still is a lot of work to be done before the Jackets’ August 27 kickoff at Portal, but also emphasized that the little things will make the biggest difference.
“We’ve got to work on fundamentals,” said Collins. “This really isn’t a hard game. It’s all about tackling, timing, leverage and other things of that nature. We want to get through to our boys that there is no magic potion to going out and winning. It’s about working hard and doing the little things right.”
Perhaps the biggest change to the SEB squad this season is the overall appearance of the team.
To go along with the new coaching staff, a whole new swarm of Yellow Jackets has joined the team. Over 90 students took part in spring practices and over 80 still remain after the grueling summer workouts -- a welcome change over previous SEB squads that had only numbered in the 40s.
“We’re over last year’s roster by about 60 percent,” said Collins. “The best part is that we averaged about 77 during workouts in July. That shows that everyone is willing to make that commitment to improve.”
One more improvement to the program has been the quality of equipment. Thanks to support from the community, all of the Yellow Jackets now are enjoying new jerseys and cleats, which has boosted the morale of the team.
“It’s great to have some new stuff,” said Odum. “We’ve got some new pads and equipment that will keep people from getting hurt. The biggest thing is knowing that the community is who stepped up to give it to us. It shows us their support.”
With the new jerseys, playbooks and everything else in place, it’s now just a matter of preparing for the upcoming season. It might be a tough road ahead, but the Jackets know exactly where they want to go.
“Our first and foremost goal is to break that ugly streak,” said Collins. “After that, we’ll strive to win a region game, followed by having a winning record and making the playoffs. Those are measurable goals that we’ve set. We’ll get the first one and then move on to the next.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.