It took years of almost winning a state title for Colquitt County to have the privilege of having a target on its back. Packer Head Coach Rush Propst isn’t itching to remove it.
Despite losing 16 athletes who will be playing college football this fall — including State Offensive Player of the Year Sihiem King, now at Kentucky — Propst says this may be his deepest team at Colquitt, with 200 players coming out for football, including 130 on varsity.
“This group is strength in numbers,” Propst said. “There are more players here now than there’s ever been before. We lost some good players, some senior leadership, including 25 seniors, 15 of whom signed and 16 of whom will play college football. But this year’s group of seniors is 40, the largest group we’ve ever had. This reminds me a little bit of when I was at Hoover, as far as the number of athletes.”
Defensively, the Packers are particularly stout, especially at linebacker, where Dee Walker and Ja’Quain Blakely are highly recruited.
“Those are two SEC-type outside speed guys, who are 6-2, 210 kids who are explosive players,” Propst said. “I think we’ll move Blakely inside and Walker to the edge. We also have Akivie Bailey, who played a lot last year, on the inside. We have six guys vying for four spots in our defensive backfield, so one of those will end up moving down to be a linebacker, nickel-type guy.”
Included in the defensive backfield are senior Rakeem Hightower, who is moving from safety to cornerback and senior safety Landon Scott, along with seniors Kiontae Green, Quan Singletary and juniors Aikaari Ryce and Quan Walker.
“They’re all athletic, long and pretty on the hoof,” Propst said. “We have eight spots on the defense where we’ll be really fast. If we have an Achilles’ heel, it may be a team that’s big and strong will be able to run on us.”
Offensively, the Packers return QB Chase Parrish, who threw for 2,835 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior and Pollard, who had 66 catches for 830 yards and nine touchdowns. The Packers set a state record last season by scoring 687 points.
“It’s always good when you return your quarterback,” Propst said. “As far as Kiel, he’s 225 pounds and plays like he’s 250. He’s not going to blow by anybody, but I think in his entire career, he’s never been tackled with the first hit or by one person.”
Running back Ty Law can be used in the slot and the Packers have two solid tight ends in Shaun Bonner and Chris Bouie.
“I think Shaun is the best tight end in the state,” Propst said. “I don’t think there’s a better athlete at 6-3 and 250, with the hands he has. There haven’t been many times in my career that we’ve had two big and physical tight ends and we are adapting our offense to them a little.”
The Packers only have one returning offensive lineman.
“For six years, we have had Xavier Ward, Octavius Jackson, and Alfred Brown at left tackle,” Propst said. “I’m a little uncomfortable without an experienced left tackle.”
He’s less concerned about replacing King.
“We have two senior running backs in Nate Powell IV and Rafael Merritt,” Propst said. “I think, combined with junior Ty Jones, you have a pretty good backfield by committee.”
Last week, former Colquitt lineman Cam Erving, went in the first round of the NFL draft. There may be future NFL players on this team as well.
“We have seven D-1 players who are legitimate SEC-ACC guys and about four who are USA Conference, Sun Belt guys and five or six more who are good Division II players,” Propst said. “We need to be as hungry as we were last years and understand we’re not defending our title. This is a new season.”