Laney coach Eric Parker sounds like a builder who can just look at a house and know what he needs.
That's how well he's refined the art of constructing a contender going into his 10th season with the Wildcats.
"We've got a good team that can maybe contend for a few things," Parker said. "But that doesn't mean this project doesn't have areas we've got to build up or makeover entirely."
His to-do list was pegged out after the first fall drills. Parker knew he had quality materials at center, quarterback, tackle and receiver. The Wildcats' defense seemed to be shaping up about as well as their new stadium, which will debut this fall.
But Laney isn't without areas that need to be nailed down.
"We're not sure about the guard spot," he said. "Fullback is another not sure. Linebackers I think so. But I'm not as confident about them as with the secondary guys we've put together."
Laney's coaches always turn a careful eye to their defense.
"That's because we know if we're solid defensively, the style of offense we play will give us 20 points a night," Parker said. "We can win a lot of games if we hold the other side below 20 points."
The Wildcats return top-tier players in two-way starter Calvin Britt, lineman LaDarien Redfield and quarterback Chris Thomas. If this was the real estate market, that would be their curb appeal.
The top five players on the Laney roster have the ability to be as good as anyone in the area, but the program's 39-14 record over the past four years came out of what the coaching staff gets out of the other 16 starters.
"We could just be OK or we could be really good by region play," Parker said. "It depends on if we find a guard solution and if our linebackers play like we think they will."
Expect the work on the running game to be completed during the middle of the season, when sophomore Eugene Moore returns from a shoulder injury.
"He's the guy here for the next three years," Parker said. "He was a kid that was capable of putting up 100-yard nights. But he's in the tank for the first three weeks."
That will put more stress on Thomas in the early going. He showed plenty last season in his first year and could be the area's most exciting quarterback.
"I'm always going to look for the big play," Thomas said.
But he's matured this year.
"The kid is very talented, but the big thing I see out of him is the development of leadership," Parker said. "He's stopped worrying about being the solo guy and what he needs to do. He's expanded it to what he's got to get his teammates to do. ... I think that's when a guy has arrived is when he affects the play of those teammates around him and not just himself."
Proof of that came when Thomas mentioned a teammate he felt was worth some praise.
"I've got to point out my receiver Calvin Britt," Thomas said. "He's going to be my go-to guy this year. Look for him to have a breakout year. He's the guy we will build a lot of our success around."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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