Although Camden County has been billed as a dark horse title contender in the state’s highest classification this summer, it was impossible to tell by the serene demeanor Wildcats head coach Bob Sphire spoke with at the 2020 Coastal Pines Technical College Virtual Media Day held by 912 Sports this past Saturday.
Following back-to-back losing campaigns in the program’s first two years in the newly formed Class 7A, Camden has shown steady improvement every season under Sphire. Now heading into the fourth season of Sphire and his staff, the program appears poised to compete in perhaps the toughest region in Georgia.
Camden finished 8-3 a year ago with the losses coming against Colquitt County, Lowndes and Marietta — the latter two went on to play in the state championship game.
Of course, the Region 1-7A will be a battlefield once again between the Wildcats, Packers, Vikings and the Tift County Blue Devils, who will be looking to bounce back from missing the playoffs following consecutive quarterfinal appearances but Camden finally has the talent and experience to rise to the top.
Defensively, the Wildcats have some work to do in rebuilding a secondary that lost starters Jordan Billups, Anthony Hunter and Michael Holmes. The loss of leading tacklers Desmond Fogle and Derrick Sinegal Jr. have also left holes in Camden’s linebacking corps.
Sphire mentioned Jadin Jones as a player with some experience at outside linebacker, and that Dre’Quez Richo has bulked up at cornerback. He also named Keith Giddens and Trevin Winn as players the team is relying on to step up in the secondary.
The Wildcats will return both of their top defensive ends though in Hunter Tucker and Deterias Glover, who combined for 10 sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
If the Camden defense can come close to replicating the effectiveness of last year’s unit that held opponents shy of 26 points per contest it will likely be more than enough to win plenty of games behind an offense that should be as potent as ever despite a few personnel changes.
Shawn Jackson helped Sphire transform the Wildcats into a spread team after experiencing more than a decade of success running the Wing-T, but he left to take a head job of his own after leading a unit that averaged 34.4 points per contest a year ago.
“We did have a staff shakeup, offensive coordinator left and took a head coaching job in Arkansas,” Sphire said. “We’re really excited that we brought DJ Mayo in from Florida to run our offense. He’s a spread, no-huddle tempo guy — a little bit more of a power spread guy.”
In addition to Mayo’s hire, former Colquitt County assistant Troy Hobbes joined Sphire’s staff as the passing game coordinator, and Bill Brown will act as the team’s run game coordinator.
Sphire’s son Hayden will also fill a role as quarterbacks coach, where he’s working to prepare the successor to two-year starter Logan Watson, who recorded 4,204 passing yards and 48 touchdowns over his final two seasons.
The Wildcats will likely turn the reigns of the offense over to Joshua Brown after seeing the 6-foot-2 rising junior complete 32-of-48 passes for 457 yards and four touchdowns when spelling Watson a year ago.
Brown still has Nebraska commit Shawn Hardy to turn to as his top target coming off a 782-yard, 10-touchdown season, but Camden’s offense will likely run through its talented pair of running backs and one of the top offensive lines in the state.
“We do have two returning running backs with a ton of experience and a lot of ability in Daryl Williams and Jamie Felix,” Sphire said. Daryl’s a senior, Jamie’s going to be a junior, and we have some more depth at that position.
“But probably other than them, the bulk of our experience is going to come on our offensive line. There’s still two or three underclassmen in that group, but most of those guys played last year.”
Felix is a two-sport standout and a four-star recruit according to the 247 Sports Composite player rating coming off a season that saw him tally more than 1,308 yards of offense and 16 scores. He’s already earned 14 offers from the likes of Auburn, Georgia, Florida and LSU.
Williams acted as the thunder to Felix’s lightning last season, rushing for 583 yards and seven touchdowns.
Both running backs will once again have the pleasure of working behind an elite offensive line anchored by Georgia commit Micah Morris at left tackle. Rising juniors Kiison Kennedy and Noah DeMeritt have picked up interest on the recruiting trail as big-bodied offensive guards, and seniors Avery Fuqua and Brennen Cooke fill out the starting five.
Camden still has some schedule kinks to work out as the threat of the coronavirus has altered start dates for various states, making it difficult for the Wildcats to hold onto scheduled contests against Florida programs Ribault and Oakleaf.
But as of now, fans will get their first chance to see Camden in action on Aug. 21 when a Rush Propst-led Valdosta High team travels to Kingsland for a scrimmage.