Programs To Watch As Spring Practices Kick Off

With spring practice kicking off today, here are some intriguing programs to watch as we head into the final stretch of the spring before summer kicks off.

Milton – Milton won their second championship in the past six seasons and went through a tough road to hoist the state title finishing 13-2. The Eagles defeated three nationally ranked teams in the postseason. You could make the argument this year Milton is even more loaded. QB Luke Nicke (Miami commit), four-star WR CJ Wiley, WR Tristan Payne, TE Ryan Ghea (Auburn Commit), RB TJ Lester, DE Caleb Bell, DB Dylan Lewis (Tennessee commit), DB Tyler Redmond (Tennessee commit), DB Ma’khi Jones (Duke commit), and DE Christian “Pancake” Hunter all return next season. Milton has an underrated linebacking corps with championship experience in Hayden Tumminia and Ashton Benton. Both played vital roles in Milton winning a title with clutch plays throughout the playoff run. Both had more than 100 tackles in 2023. Everywhere you look at this roster Milton has a guy, and their depth is off the charts. Milton also has an experienced coaching staff and an excellent head coach in Ben Reaves who gets the most out of his guys. During his two years as head coach, Reaves has led Milton to the semifinals and a state championship. They will be the heavy favorites next season and bring back a bunch of playoff experience after last year’s run.

Milton will play their spring game against Peachtree Ridge on May 17th. 

Buford – Buford is also an intriguing program to follow, especially with how dominant their run has been. The Wolves have won a championship in every classification except 7A in their program history. Buford also hasn’t had a losing season since 1998. In the past two seasons, Buford has failed to reach the title game. The Wolves will have another loaded roster despite losing star quarterback Dylan Raiola (Nebraska), star defensive end Eddrick Houston (Ohio State), and star defensive back KJ Bolden (Georgia). Buford has one of the most talented linebacker units in the country in five-star Jadon Perlotte (Georgia commit), four-star Mantrez Walker (Colorado commit), and three-star CJ Sibley. All are gifted in their own way. Manning the backend of the defense will be Naasir McCoy, who has created quite a buzz for himself in recruiting. Most platforms have him ranked as a four-star. He’s been patient and will look to star in a new role. Also, you can’t forget about Devin Williams, a productive cornerback who recently committed to Auburn. Buford will still have great playmakers in running back Justin Baker (Tennessee commit), wide receiver Jordan Allen (Louisville commit), and tight end Hayden Bradley (Ole Miss commit). The biggest question is going to be who the signal caller for the Wolves next season will be. Will it be TJ Wilcox or Dayton Raiola? It remains to be seen as they will likely battle for the spot through the summer.

Buford will start practice on May 1st and will face Norcross on May 9th. 

Peachtree Ridge – The Lions are coming off their best season since 2009 where they also won ten games. Head Coach Matt Helmerich is quietly building the reputation of being able to turn programs around. He’s done it at two stops so far: Johns Creek and Peachtree Ridge. Offensively, the Lions will be led by quarterback Darnell Kelly, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the 2026 class. As a sophomore, Kelly threw for 2,719 yards and 27 touchdowns. It’s been a good spring for the 2026 QB, who recently had a clip go viral while playing on the OT7 circuit. In the clip, he alluded to multiple rushers and still threw a pinpoint to the receiver. Other playmakers to watch for the Lions will be WR Rhari Thomas who had 58 catches and 567 yards as a sophomore and RB Sedric Addison who rushed for 606 and 11 touchdowns. Defensively, it starts with standout defensive back Dorian Barney, who is a four-star on every recruiting platform except ESPN. Barney had 32 tackles, ten passes defended, and four interceptions in 2023

Peachtree Ridge will begin practice on Monday at 7:30 PM and will face Milton on May 17th. 

Valdosta – The Wildcats went 8-4 in 2023 and made it to the second round of the playoffs before losing to Carrollton 45-28. A surprise team you might say but loaded with a lot of potential on both sides of the ball. QB Todd Robinson has grown into a national prospect and is on a lot of college radars. He has over 20+ offers. Robinson passed for 1,000 and rushed for 1,000 yards in his junior season. Defensive back Jalon Copeland is another major prospect. He could be one of the best prospects in the state let alone the country with his ability. His recruiting is just getting started and what stands out about his game is his ability to be physical at the top of the route and his ball skills in the air. The Wildcats have made the postseason 14 of the last 15 seasons only missing the playoffs in 2021 in head coach Shelton Felton’s first year at the helm. Valdosta will lose a good amount of their seniors but will bring back some talented cornerstone players in 2024.

Valdosta will begin practice on May 1st and will face Crisp County on May 17th.

North Cobb Christian – The Eagles went 9-3 in 2023 and won their first region title in program history. North Cobb Christian will return a lot of their playmakers including Carson Bruce, Coker Ormsby, Michai Rowe, and Denim Stevens, all were underclassmen last year. Defensively they will be led by Beedjy Guerrier and Spears Martin both lead the team in tackles. Guerrier could potentially have a breakout year for the Eagles in 2024. Eyes will be locked on QB Teddy Jarrad who started as a true freshman and was one of the few freshmen in the state who played early at the position. Jarrad showed plenty of flashes and his potential is through the roof. He passed for 2,065 yards and 18 touchdowns in year one. Jarrad also competed in the Georgia Elite Classic in December and recently in the Rivals camp in Atlanta. The Eagles could be a staple team in the postseason for years to come with their young roster getting valuable playoff experience in 2023.

North Cobb Christian will begin practice on April 29th and will face Woodland on May 10th. 

Cambridge – It is a new era for the Bears, but they have one of the most innovative minds and play callers in the state Tyler Jones as their new head coach. When you look at what he did for the offense at Walton and how elite it was, you can’t help but be excited about what he can bring to the table for Cambridge. The Bears have some underrated weapons in Craig Dandridge and Hudson Cocchiara. The stats don’t tell the full story of both players. When you take a deeper dive at how great their routes are and the big play ability both have you can’t help but wonder what kind of numbers they can put up this year. Both names to watch in the Spring. RB Tyler Blalock had a productive season for Cambridge rushing for 1,090 yards and 14 touchdowns. Blalock can run in between the tackles and get the tough yards or be a playmaker in the passing game. Cambridge has been known for having great offensive lines and they have another heavily rated lineman in Gabe Smith. Smith is a three-star prospect and has great size at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds. He is a problem in the interior. Defensively, you have to watch out for defensive back Ray Taylor who had four interceptions and has a nose for the football.

Cambridge will begin practice Thursday, May 2nd and will play Dunwoody on May 17th. 

Langston Hughes – You know you’ve built an elite program when last year feels like a disappointing season despite going 9-3 and making the second round of the playoffs. That is just what head coach Daniel “Boone” Williams has done. Year in and year out you expect the Panthers to be in title contention. Throughout his five-year career, coach Williams has led Hughes to the state championship game twice, winning in 2022, and the playoffs in four of those seasons. Hughes will be replacing one of their best quarterbacks in program history in Prentiss Air Noland, who is now at Ohio State. The Panthers are loaded in the trenches with a pair of four-star offensive linemen Tavaris Dice (Auburn) and Dontrell Glover. They will have another standout running back Carsyn Baker who has seen his recruiting shot up this spring. He was recently rated a four-star by 247Sports. A fun part of this team to watch will be their speed as they continue to have one of the best track teams in the state. Baker and Maurice Gleaton are notable players who run track for the Panthers. You also have to pay attention to their heavily rated tight end Xavier Tiller who can make acrobatic catches and is one of the toughest covers in the state. They also have Jabari Jones and Jovani McGee who can stretch the defense. Defensively, Hughes will bring back Quavion Pitts and Jordan Thompson, two of their best players who have a nose for the football.

Hughes will begin practice on May 6th and will face Creekside on May 17th. 

Gainesville -  Head coach Josh Niblett has done a great job in his first two seasons with the Red Elephants. Gainesville only has accrued two losses during the span and has already made a state championship and the semifinals. Gainesville continues to be in the contender conversation. The Red Elephants could have one of the top front sevens in football heading into 2024 and have great talent defensively. When you think of Gainesville you must start with Xavier Griffin and Julius Columbus. Columbus finished with over 60 tackles and 20 sacks last season. Columbus is great with his hands and moving offensive lineman with ease. Griffin had 52 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, and nine sacks. Griffin is a Swiss army knife for Gainesville which can be used all over the field. This deadly combination will wreak havoc on offenses next season. Offensively, Gainesville will replace senior quarterback Baxter Wright heading into the spring. A name to watch is freshman RB Mikel Stephen will step into a big role this year for the Red Elephants. Stephen will look to vie for a starting role and has high potential at the running back spot. He was regarded as one of the best running backs in the country in middle school. Wide receiver will be an interesting spot to watch for the Red Elephants as they lose six of their top pass catchers from a year ago.

Gainesville will begin spring practice on May 1st and will face North Gwinnett on May 16th 

Sandy Creek – The Patriots went 7-4 and made it to the first round of the playoffs under head coach Darius Smiley in his first season. Sandy Creek will be better in 2024 as their young talent starred in key roles last season and added more experience. It starts with two dynamic players offensively for Sandy Creek, Amari Latimer and Dalen Penson. Latimer rushed for 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns and averaged 127 yards a game. ATH Dalen Penson had 1,866 all-purpose yards (814 rushing, 1,052 passing). Both give defenses fits in the run game and they make opposing teams pick their poison when defending them. Penson is also a problem at the cornerback spot on defense and a playmaker on that side of the ball. He was named Region 5-3A Athlete of the Year. Latimer also plays both ways and is a standout linebacker on defense. Another name to pay attention to on the defensive side of the ball is Evan Harvey. The EDGE rusher had 24 QB hurries and 12 sacks this past season. Harvey has a great frame at 6’3 and 225 pounds. He is great at containing the edge in the run game, creating pressure in the passing game and moving opposing linemen. It was a young group last year for Sandy Creek but now they will return these notable players who got valuable playing experience and will be stars next year.

Sandy Creek will start practice on May 6th and will play Dutchtown in the spring game on May 17th.



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