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Dogs hoping to go on the defensive in 2017

Posted: August 10, 2017 9:53 a.m.
Updated: August 11, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I/

BRYCE JEFFCOAT TAKES OVER the reins as Camden's starting quarterback in 2017.

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These are usually the days when a new head coach cites the familiar refrain that he wishes he had more time to get everything he wanted into place.

Brian Rimpf is not using time or, lack thereof, as a crutch as he begins his tenure at Camden. Brought aboard last winter after having been the head coach at Jack Britt High in Fayetteville, N.C., the past five years, the former Baltimore Ravens’ offensive tackle has made the best of his abbreviated stint after having taken over for Jimmy Neal who stepped down after 19 years at the Bulldog post.

“Time always flies by no matter what part of the season or, offseason that you’re in,” Rimpf said. “We’ve gotten in a lot of work. We got here in March and were able to get in the weight room for a couple months then, we had spring practice and we had a long summer. I’m not used to summers being this long, we had two more weeks of summer here than where I was from and it was neat. We got a lot of work done.”

The extra days of summer allowed Rimpf and the Bulldogs more time to bond. In addition to participating in passing leagues in and around the Midlands, the team camped at USC, the University of Georgia, Presbyterian College and attended FCA camp at USC-Upstate. “The summer got long,” Rimpf admitted, “but we were finished with what we needed to do and we’re looking forward to taking the next step and we’re excited about the season.”

The Dogs will stay with a quick-paced offense which averaged better than 39 points per game last fall. Under new defensive coordinator Earl Chaptman, CHS has tweaked its defensive scheme in hoping to right the ship for a unit which allowed 58 or more points on four occasions in 2016.

“Be physical,” Rimpf said of the major philosophy change on defense. “You can draw all the X’s and O’s you want to on paper but in the end, the last guy with the pen wins. I was fortunate enought to have been around good defenses during my playing career and a few more coaching. The biggest similar trait they had were they were physical.

“If you can get off blocks and make the tackle, it doesn’t matter who you blitz, who you cover or any of that stuff; you are going to wear the offense out. You are going to be in position and you are going to make the play.”

Playing a physical brand of football is something the Camden staff has stressed and practices have included first-teamers going against first-teamers to get players used to what they will see during the season. “The more we go against our own first people,” Rimpf said, “the better we will be. One of our goals is that after games, people will know they have played Camden because we are physical.”

 

Quarterbacks For the third straight year, a coach’s son will be under center for the Dogs. Gone is Devin Beckley, who threw for 2,797 yards and 26 touchdowns a season ago. In his place steps junior Bryce Jeffcoat (6-0, 163), the son of CHS girls’ basketball coach Natalie Jeffcoat and former USC punter Derwin Jeffcoat. Jeffcoat saw limited duty at quarterback last season, completing four of five passes for 62 yards, while also being shuttled in at receiver. “The quarterback, especially, is a guy that you know is going to be at practice and knows the offense well. He has to be a leader,” Rimpf said of Jeffcoat who is a better runner than his predecessor. “Bryce is everything you look for in a quarterback plus, he’s pretty athletic; he was a three-sport letterman last year. He gets it. His IQ for the sport is way up there. As a coach’s kid and being around sports his whole life, there are certain things he just gets.” Behind Jeffcoat are sophomores Natrone Smith and freshman Jaffari Pearson, latter is the nephew of former CHS and Appalachian State quarterback Richie Williams.

 

Running Backs Last season, Camden averaged nearly 200 yards on the ground thanks in large part to tailback Jericho Murphy (5-11, 190) (see story on page A5) going for 108 per game. His return bolsters a solid backfield which includes senior Lance McCray (5-6, 185) who will be a starter after having run for 457 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. “Both those guys want to block. That gives us the luxury when calling plays and game-planning,” Rimpf said of the two seniors. Also in the mix is junior transfer Nathan Gallman (5-10, 200), the cousin of former Clemson and current New York Giants’ running back Wayne Gallman, and junior speedsters Shymeik Corbett (5-9, 155) and Deldrik Jones (5-8, 160). The latter three will also be put into the slot as part of the passing game. “We are not hurting at running back,” Rimpf said.

 

Receivers Sophomore Davea’ Cauthen (6-0, 159) will be split wide with classmate Landon Goodwin (5-11, 164) lining up inside of him to form an athletic tandem. “They’ve really risen up to the challenge. They both have good size, they’re hard workers in the weight room and they’re really good kids,” Rimpf said. The third receiver slot has been a combination of McCray, Corbett, Jones and senior Ryland Ayers (5-9, 164) who can come in from his cornerback post. Seniors LaReik Briggs (5-8, 151), Randy Kambeitz (6-0, 145) and Campbell Jordan (6-0, 166) can also be placed at receiver. “We want to put our best players out there,” Rimpf said of the rotation.

 

Offensive Linemen Camden has a blend of experience, new faces and size along the offensive line which returns senior Tyler Hampton (5-7, 180) at left tackle. Senior Camry Albert (6-0, 304) moves in at left guard while junior Jason Harris (6-0, 309) is the most experienced of the group as he returns for his second season as a starter over the football. Junior Josh Barnes (6-2, 361) will line up at right guard while junior Derrick Leonard (6-2, 243) gets the nod at right tackle. Junior Caleb Huggins (6-1, 241), a starter until having his year shortened by injury, is expected to be cleared to play as early as the Aug. 18 opener. 

 

Offensive Outlook How well and how quickly the offensive line comes around will dictate how successful the Camden offense can be. That unit must be able to protect a young quarterback and allow a strong group of skill players to do their thing. “That’s going to be a unit that has to gel,” Rimpf said of the line, “because we have the skill guys behind them. We can be pretty good on offense and we’re going to put the pressure (on the offensive line) to do that.”

 

Defensive Linemen Junior Javaris Holliday (6-2, 253) and left end is senior Dontrell Sutton (6-1, 253) give the Dogs two strong players on the edge with Holliday having good quickness and length while Sutton may well be the most athletic player on the line along with being the team’s strongest player. “Dontrell is one of our tough guys,” Rimpf said of Sutton. Junior Darrion Allen (5-10, 254) and AAA state wrestling qualifier JeVontae Salmond (6-0, 266), who has moved from the offensive line, will play along the inside. “All those guys weight over 250 and are in our top weight group,” Rimpf said of the front four.

Linebackers Junior Chase McKoy (509, 209) will be calling the defensive signals from his job as the starting middle linebacker. Classmate Tyler Maxwell (6-0, 191) will be asked to play inside while also being called on the play in space while a third junior, Brock Dalton (6-0, 178) will be on the outside.

 

Defensive Backs Senior Ryland Ayers and junior Jalen Johnson (5-9, 144) at give Camden a pair of returning starters on the corners. Ayers had 52 tackles along with two interceptions with one going for a touchdown while the improved Johnson made 59 stops a season ago. Look for junior Rasheed Sutton (5-10, 148) to be brought in on nickel and dime packages. Senior DeAndre Halley (5-10, 180) is the defensive vocal leader at safety. Junior Blake Dalton (6-0, 176), junior Jalyn Dubose (6-1, 176) and Jordan will also figure into the lineup with Jordan being the team’s leading returning tackler with 100 stops as a junior while Dalton came on strong to collect 45 tackles a year ago.

 

Defensive Outlook For a team which looks to become tougher, this unit has to be the one which needs to lead the charge. “We have the guys on defense who we fell can be successful now, we have to go out there and do it,” Rimpf said. “We have to be tough and physical and those are the guys who are going to have to set that tone.” Stopping people --- CHS allowed its last two opponents to score 70 and 77 points last season, respectively --- is the key if the Bulldogs are to make a return trip to the AAA state playoffs. “We think that we’re going to be able to score some points,” Rimpf said. “As soon as we start to shut people down, it’s going to be a different type of game.

 

Specialists Jeffcoat, who averaged nearly 36 yards a punt last year on three kicks, will handle that while sophomore Bennett Caldwell (5-10, 165) joined the team this year and will handle the kicking chores.

 

Season Outlook With an abundance of wealth at the skill positions on offense, if the line comes around, the Bulldogs should be able to score points. Stopping people will be the task. Like any team, the Dogs need to stay healthy. A year’s experience should also pay dividends this season. “I’m not really nervous about these guys getting nervous on a Friday night,” Rimpf said. “A lot of them are juniors or seniors now and they all played last year. That’s a benefit I had coming in here is that there is a lot of experience on this team. It’s just a matter of them playing hard, with great effort and staying away from injuries. I tell them the harder the play, the less chance they have of getting injured. It’s amazing, the more you go full speed the less chance there is of something bad happening to you.”

 

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