Although it wasn’t quite the week of practice taking place pre-COVID, the Brunswick High football team wrapped up a four-day period that saw the team tossing the pigskin in an organized workout for the first time in 2020.
Beginning this past Monday, the Georgia High School Association loosened restrictions on the summer conditioning period, allowing the use of sport-specific equipment and groups of up to 50 per workout.
Following a two-week period in which groups were limited to 20 and players solely worked on their conditioning on the field and in the weight room, getting something more closely resembling live reps was a much- needed change for the Pirates.
“We did get to get the ball out and do some fundamental stuff,” Pender said. “As the week progressed, we got better with it. The stuff that we started doing, we started executing better and better as our timing got better.
“We’re still working a lot on getting in shape, but when you have a ball, and you can do things in the throwing offense, we were able to make good passes, work on the timing, and receivers could work on the conditioning with the route running as well.”
Brunswick will be breaking in a first-time starter at quarterback this season following the graduation of Anthony Mountain, and each of the three candidates has little in the way of varsity experience.
Rising senior KJ Lee took a majority of the snaps in practice last spring as Mountain recovered from a torn ACL, but Lee himself was eventually nicked up and ceded playing time to rising junior Jeffery Waye in the spring game.
Pender said Lee, Waye and sophomore Gerald Quick have each improved tremendously early in the process while throwing to a talented group of pass catchers that includes Xavier Bean, Che Foy, Tyrease Jones and Kevin Thomas.
A mix of veteran varsity players working hard and young players following suit as they look to prove themselves has been a boon for the Pirates.
But one area the lack of experience — and practice reps — may hurt Brunswick is in its defensive backfield, where it must replace a couple of college commits in Devin Lafayette and Freddie Towns. In an effort to make up for inexperience with talent and athleticism, the Pirates have moved some players like Amarion Whitfield to the secondary.
A talented, experienced front seven should help carry Brunswick through any early adjustment period on the backend. The Pirates have six returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, and more experience from guys that played various roles last season.
“Right now, the defensive side of the ball, what I’m most excited about is the depth that we’re starting to incorporate with the young guys filling in,” Pender said.
The linebacking corps consists of returning starters Zane Rosenbaum, AJ Wilson, and Cameron Crump. Returning starters along the defensive line include: Kaleb Hampton, Kashawn Thomas and David Newbauer.
When factoring in offensive linemen like Georgia Southern commit Caleb Cook and Kanaya Charlton, who has offers from seemingly every major Division I program in the country, Brunswick should be strong in the trenches — though not allowed to currently push sleds, linemen have been somewhat limited to doing their power work in the weight room and focusing on footwork on the field.
The GHSA now prepares to enter a dead week in which no activities will be held from June 28-July 4.
Once that period has passed, it’ll be time to ramp up if there’s to be any possibility of a football season, especially as COVID-19 cases rise in Glynn County.
“We tell them (to be safe) everyday, even before these rising cases,” Pender said. “You can’t control the uncontrollable, but you can control what positions you put yourself in, stuff like that.”