Wheeler Bulldogs Looking To Improve
The Bulldogs were not able to take pictures due to COVID before the Pigskin Preview went to press. So they are being included in the regular sports section for that reason. There is a new Head Coach at Wheeler County High School with Thomas Smith taking over the reigns of the football team. The Bulldogs are hoping to improve on last year's 1-9 season. Smith brings with him a solid record as the Head Coach of Robert Toombs Christian Academy including a State Championship and a couple of runner ups.
Wheeler has had some difficulties in the lead up to this season. As all other teams they were able to start back working in the summer, but recently they had nearly a third of their team in quarantine due to COVID. They just got most of their players back last week, and have been working hard to catch up on practice time. The school was also shut down for a week which also ate into the team's practice time.
Coach Smith did have the opportunity to get to know his players during the spring as he joined the school half way through the school year. He said, “We did get that chance to get to work starting in January of this year and to get the kids into the weight room until March when everything got shut down. During our summer workouts we had very good attendance.”
They have been able to have some intrasquad scrimmages to begin to get up to game speed, and Coach Smith said that the players have done a very good job picking up the system and they are ahead of where he thought they would be in some aspects. Coach Smith did say that when they had so many kids in quarantine, it did give them the opportunity to get a good look at several other players and let them work on getting some kids into roles that they may not have had the chance to play. It created competition on the team which is good considering players could be lost for a week or more at any time this season. With Smith moving in and taking over as Head Coach, there are many other changes to the staff. Former Wheeler Head Coach Randy Collins will be back at the school and taking over as the Defensive Coordinator. He had been a part of the staff at RTCA with Coach Smith. His son Drew Collins will be the Offensive Coordinator for the Bulldogs. Ken Pack will remain as part of the Wheeler staff and will work with the quarterbacks. Garrett McDonald will work with the running backs. Sheldon Miller also came over from RTCA and will work with the defensive line. Percy Leggett will work with the linebackers. He went to Wheeler and then played at Valdosta State. Ben Blackshear is another coach that came from RTCA and will be working with the secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball Jacquez Kincey will be the starting quarterback. He is a dual threat player but has continued to improve throwing the ball. Freshman Rhett Rodgers will be the backup and they believe that he is going to be a good player as he gains experience.
In the backfield the Bulldogs have several guys that will be able to carry the ball. Landon Bell ran for over 1,500 yards last season and will be a feature back for the Bulldogs. Jason Culver has a lot of potential, and Jaquan Chapman is a sophomore with good vision. Jeremy and Dillion Williams are both physical runners and add a different element when they come in.
Split out for the Bulldogs is Quinshad Edwards as a solid receiver and a big part of what they are trying to do. Josh Williams will play in the slot and has good speed. Blaine Johnson is a good blocking receiver, and Brandon Smallwood will also play at receiver.
Up front for the Bulldogs will be Bryce Miller, and Shawn Johnekin at the other guard. Reilly Coleman will be at center and is a key player for them. At tackle Walker Bridges is a freshman that will be a solid player, and Romie Grimm will play the other side.
On defense up front Tylon Gorham is a big guy that will play at end. Caysen Harvey has a big motor and is a bright spot for the Bulldogs. At noseguard they will have several players that will fill in.
The linebackers will be the Williams brother playing outside, and inside will be LaMarcus Woodard, Kole McDaniel, John Bell and Tyrell Weeks rotating on the inside. The secondary will see Edwards, Makel Robinson, Smallwood, Bell, Jeremiah Kincey, and Landon Wilson.
On special teams kicking the ball will be Diego Ortiz on extra points and some kickoffs. Trey Hopkins will also do some kickoff. Bell will handle the long snapping and Rodgers will be the punter.
Coach Smith said, “We will have some growing pains with all of our young guys, but they are doing everything that we ask of them and it is just going to be about getting them some varsity reps. We have good numbers with over 40 kids, but we just have a few seniors so we have to get them all to be leaders for us.” Coach Smith added that they have had great help from the community and from the staff. Getting the water bottles they need so every player can have their own due to COVID, the cleaning crew coming in a making sure everything is kept up to code, and with the administration doing everything they can to make sure that everything is handled.
“We are just excited with the staff we have. The support from everyone in the school. We are just excited about the opportunity to get out there and play. We are excited about how hard they are working and just ready for this.” Wheeler will be in a new Region, and will be in a tough one with Dublin, Johnson County, Montgomery County, Treutlen, Wilcox County, Telfair County, Hawkinsville and Dooly County. Wheeler will open the season with a Region came this Friday night against Telfair County on the road.