June 22, 2018

Light spring for Barron’s Braves

Article written by Jordan Hofeditz / The Times-Georgian

(Franklin, GA) — Once again, the Heard County High School football team opted not to hold a traditional spring practice this year in order to play two scrimmages in the fall leading into the 2016 campaign.

It is something head coach Tim Barron not only likes to do, it is something he believes is in the best interest of his team. Instead of putting on pads for 10 days, the Braves get out on the field and run a three-day combine that lets the coaching staff see what the new players can do and see how the off-season program has developed the returners.

“You get to see them run around. We timed them in the 40, the short shuttles and L drills. It’s given us a chance to get to know the eighth-graders coming over, see them run, see what they could do so when they come into summer workouts we’re putting kids in the right spots,” Barron said. “It’s a chance for the kids to get to know us and us to get to know them. Then have the big parent meeting, which sets the tone for the summer.”

Braves head football coach Tim Barron during recent spring workouts.(Photo: Melanie Boyd/Times-Georgian)

Braves head football coach Tim Barron during recent spring workouts.(Photo: Melanie Boyd/Times-Georgian)

The biggest thing for Heard County, which announced a school population of 635 students in the latest reclassification process, is to keep everyone healthy. The risk of getting someone hurt during spring is not worth the benefit that might come by seeing the players in pads.

“For our size, we don’t do much. But that’s good for us. We had baseball going on and spring sports still going on. For us, the risk to reward, we got what we needed out of the three-day process,” Barron said.

“Having two scrimmages, once we start in July, we’ll have a week of the acclimation period and then once we’re in full pads that will be like a game week because we’ll be getting ready to scrimmage LaGrange.”

Having that quick turnaround once the pads are on in the fall does two things. It first makes the summer that much more important for players to learn everything they can. It also provides a reward and quick turnaround of something on the schedule.

“Obviously, it forces a sense of urgency for you during the summer, but for me it helps the kids. There’s not a four, five-week grind of summer practices because within two weeks they’re playing a game,” Barron said. “I know it’s a scrimmage, but there’s something to look forward to.”

During the three-day workouts there was a chance to see the results of the first part of the off-season.

“I thought the offseason workout program was great for us. Those freshmen and sophomores, you can see their bodies change when they’re running around in the spring. Their confidence levels are up and you can tell they’re excited about an opportunity to compete for a job,” Barron said.

As for the returning players, no one has gotten more attention than rising junior quarterback Emory Jones, who has been picking up offers left and right this summer from just about every team that has made the trip to watch him work.

Jones also has a strong assortment of weapons to use, including Jaden Moreland, who has an offer from South Alabama, along with Jonta Gray, Kendaz Goode and returning running back Dayvin Troy.

“We’re returning a lot of skill guys that played a great deal last year and were big-time players for us. So at the skill positions we’ve got that experience. Up front on both sides of the ball we lost a lot. It’s going to be some early growing pains. They’ll get a lot of work,” Barron said.

“Those guys, we’re going to have to be patient with them. We feel like this young group of offensive linemen can be pretty good by midseason.”

But until then there might not be the full sign of how good the Braves can be. Even with those weapons and Jones calling the shots, it can be tough if there is not the proper protection or holes.

Heard County has had success developing offensive linemen in the past with current players at Georgia and Marshall and another lineman headed to Berry next year.

“You can have the best quarterback in the country, but if you’re not real good up front that quarterback’s not going to be real successful and is not going to look like an all-world quarterback. It’s cliché, but everything starts up front,” Barron said. “We’re only going to be as good as where we are up front.”

The line on the other side of the ball might be a little trickier. With a group of top guys gone, the process of replacing them might also bring together a new style and scheme.

“Defensive line, we lost our top-four tacklers, so that’s going to be a challenge there. We’ll probably change a little bit defensively because the body type for those guys will be so different this year than what it’s been in the past,” Barron said.

This year the Braves will still play in Region 5-AA, but the latest installment of the league. Heard County has been in 5-AA since 2006, but has seen it change plenty.

This year’s region will be a little bit of a throwback as Callaway, Lamar County, Spencer and Jordan return with Temple also remaining from last year. Lamar left the region in 2010, while Jordan and Spencer departed in 2014. Now they are all back together making up a six-team region that will have to battle for four playoff spots.

“There’s some familiarity with all these schools coming into it. You’ve got Lamar County coming back in to it, they were in our region in the mid 2000s. You’ve got Callaway coming back in. Of course, we’ve always played Callaway. Now you’ve got Spencer and Jordan coming back into it,” Barron said.

“What people don’t realize, that Spencer team that we played five, six years ago, is not the same Spencer team we’ll play in our region … Talking about Callaway, Lamar and Spencer, just those three coming back in to it makes our region really tough.”

But before region play starts on Sept. 23 against Temple, or even before the season starts in a Thursday night game on Aug. 18 against South Atlanta in Lakewood Stadium, the focus is the summer. Without a spring, with two scrimmages and an early season opener, there is a lot to be accomplished.

“The summer is everything for us because we’ll start install on Day 1. The mental part once those kids get on the field, it starts Day 1. I’ve seen kids show up in the fall thinking they’re ready to go, but are so far behind they get lost in the shuffle,” Barron said. “With us having those early scrimmages, we’re on a short deadline.”

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