Absent from the playoffs since 2010, the Augusta Red Devils showed marked improvement last year, finishing sixth in the 3-2A Conference and missing the postseason by a single game. Now, head coach Roosevelt Turner said he hopes his squad’s tremendous offseason work ethic will translate into a more explosive line and a more competitive year.
“Our main strength, I would say, is better line play,” Turner said. “For the first time, I had all my linemen in the weight room this past spring, so I would say I think I’m gonna get better production from my offensive and defensive lines.
“If I’ve got a weakness, I’d say inexperience and an untested quarterback [in sophomore Ryan Grisham].”
Grisham (5-7, 130) carries a 4.0 grade-point average and scored a 23 on the ACT as an eighth-grader. He also ran the 300-meter hurdles in 51.64 seconds at the district track meet in April.
“He’s smart, and yet he’s untested,” Turner said of Grisham. “He’s working hard and doing everything I ask him. He played quarterback in junior high, but in senior high, the game gets a little faster, so he’s untested there.”
With an anticipated 25 athletes on his roster, six of them seniors, Turner said, he’s looking for a successful season.
“I think I’m gonna be competitive,” he said. “The guys are working hard in the weight room, so I think I’m gonna do well and be pretty competitive.”
He balked, however, when asked if there are any particular games he’s highlighting this year.
“I don’t do that,” he said. “I just take one game at a time and try to get better every week.”
As far as differences Red Devil fans can expect to see this year, Turner said he expects superlative leadership from key players to translate into better production from the receivers, as well as stronger, more effective offensive and defensive lines.
“I’d think my receivers are gonna be a little bit better,” he said. “I got a young man named Kelsey Brown. He’s really improved his attitude this year, and he’s been working hard. I’ve asked for 25 workouts over the summer, and I think he’s got about 35.”
Brown (5-11, 220), a senior, will be playing tight end for the Red Devils this year, and his summer workouts have clearly paid off. He enters the season with a 255-pound bench press, a 340-pound squat and a 245-pound power clean.
Turner also spoke with satisfaction about the offseason performance of senior Clayton Hanna (6-2, 290).
“He’s been a leader, too,” Turner said. “He’s got about 25 workouts, … and everything starts with him because he plays the nose guard, as well as center.”
Hanna has a reported bench press of 340 pounds and squats 455 pounds.
Recognizing their work and effort, Turner said Brown and Hanna will be the linchpins of his team and will also likely be his team captains.
“Everything’s going to be built around those two guys, so I think we’re gonna be pretty decent, I really do — pretty competitive,” he said.