Solid line could carry Josey

Josey head coach John Noah expects his offensive line to carry the burden, at least early on this season.

And with his linemen averaging about 240 pounds, he thinks they have the size to do so.

"No one is under 200 pounds," Noah said. "They are a strong point, and they're going to have to carry us."

Four offensive linemen return this fall for the Eagles, who are searching for their first winning season since 1999. In addition to the size on the line, Josey also returns junior quarterback Marquise Burton to pilot the multiple-I attack.

When Burton hands the ball off, he has two senior backs to carry the load. Noah said there is "no doubt" Demarquies Dunn will get a lot of touches, but the second-year coach also expects Conrad Wilbourn to contribute. With Wilbourn, Noah hopes to see the senior become a runner who can turn a 10- to 15-yard gain into something more when blocking leaves him in the clear.

Wilbourn would gladly take such an opportunity.

"Everything slows down," when he sees the open field, Wilbourn said.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles changed from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defensive scheme. Noah cited the strength on the line as a reason for the switch.

Besides the new alignment, there have been some changes on the staff. With former defensive coordinator Andrew Young taking the head job at Glenn Hills, Josey will be looking at linebackers coach Earl Eubanks and defensive line coach Kea Wilson to head the defense. Noah called losing Young was an emotional setback for his players, but added everyone knew Young did what he needed to do.

It's clear Josey has some catching up to do on both sides of the line of scrimmage, though Noah said the offense is ahead of the defense. Last season, the Eagles were shut out five times and surrendered more than 30 points eight times.

This year Josey is in Region 3 North-AAA along with Rich-mond Academy, Grovetown and Thomson, and it plays rival Laney for the first time in three years. This season also marks the 15th anniversary of the unbeaten 1995 state championship team, a feat immortalized on the Josey scoreboard and a daily point of motivation for Wilbourn and his teammates.

There's another number Noah looks at for optimism: 61. With 61 players on the squad -- the most Noah believes the school has had in a long time -- the staff seems to have the numbers. The head coach also said he never had fewer than 30 players for any summer drill day.

Despite the players' hard work in the summer, Noah said he is worried about "oneness."

It seems his squad recognizes the concern. After Wilbourn described last season as a learning year to develop, 2010 is about working as a unit.

"We need to step it up," linebacker Jonathan Davis said. "Camp's been good for me, but we just got to get better. It's a work together-type thing."

Josey Eagles

HEAD COACH: John Noah (second year)

OFFENSE COORDINATOR: Raleigh Roundtree (second year)

DEFENSIVE COORDINATORS: Earl Eubanks and Kea Wilson.

REGION: 3-AAA

LAST YEAR: 1-9 (1-8 in region)

STARTERS BACK: 8 offense, 8 defense

KEY RETURNERS: QB Marquise Burton (Jr., 5-11, 175), RB Conrad Wilbourn (Sr., 6-2, 175), LB Jonathan Davis (Sr., 5-10, 220), RB/LB Demarquies Dunn (Sr., 5-9, 180), T Deandre Robinson (Sr., 6-1, 240)

KEY GAMES: at Laney, Sept. 3; Burke County, Sept. 10; Richmond Academy, Oct. 8; at Grovetown, Oct. 15

GLASS HALF FULL: Four offensive linemen return and should provide Burton with time. The quarterback is in his second year as a starter and the offense should put up points with more consistency.

GLASS HALF EMPTY: The Eagles have a lot of ground to make up, as evidenced by some of their margins of defeat last season. Expect the defense to take some time to mature, so the offense will have to keep pace.

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