NORTHWEST WHITFIELD BRUINS
Coach: Josh Robinson (1st year)
Returning starters (O/D/K): 6/5/0
Remember these names: The Bruins are switching from a spread option offense to an I-based attack that will feature the running backs Nathan Sistrunk (Sr., 5-11, 195) and Alex Herd (Sr., 5-10, 195) and quarterback Colter Creswell (Sr., 6-3, 180). The defense sports a solid front seven anchored by ends Adam Selby (Sr., 6-2, 245) and Tallon Trew (Sr., 6-3, 215).
Will be a memorable year if: The Bruins, in Coach Robinson's words, "stay healthy and don't make stupid mistakes." The team lost several close games during last year's 5-5 season, one on a turnover in the final minute and at least two because of penalty issues. The lines again will be the strength of the team, but an inexperienced secondary could be an issue in a region led by defending state champion Chattahoochee.
Aug. 26 at Lambert*
Sept. 2 Creekview*
Sept. 9 at Sequoyah*
Sept. 23 at Chattahoochee*
Sept. 30 Cass*
Oct. 7 Rome*
Oct. 14 at Forsyth Central*
Oct. 21 Woodland*
Oct. 28 at John's Creek*
Nov. 4 South Forsyth*
* Region 7-AAAA game
When asked how many tackles he recorded a year ago, Trevon Tucker got a curious, almost dumbfounded look on his face. The Northwest Whitfield senior linebacker didn't know.
Nor did he care.
"It's not all about me," said the two-time All-Region 7-AAAA player and last year's region top-defender runner-up. "I've got to help other people, even if that means sacrificing myself, and they help me. We can't be selfish. It doesn't matter how many tackles I get; it's all about putting the W's on the board."
First-year head coach Josh Robinson, the Bruins' defensive coordinator under Mike Falleur the past five years, said the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Tucker is one of the most physical players he's coached.
"His athletic ability is the big thing," Robinson said. "He's not tall, but he has good size. His experience, physicality - he's everything you want in a linebacker. He's a three-year starter and he's a vocal leader when it comes to our calls and getting people where they need to be. He's got it all.
"He enjoys contact, and that's something you can't teach kids. He's always been a very, very physical kid, and as he's learned more he's become even more physical."
On this day early in camp, Tucker was in shorts and a T-shirt after suffering a deep thigh bruise. Having to watch his teammates go through practice was eating at him.
"Man, I hate it," he said with a wince, the leg barking as he moved. "I can't do any good just watching, but I know I'll be ready when it counts."
He's eager for a possible run at the playoffs in the Bruins' final season in Class AAAA. Northwest is slated to drop to Class AAA next season, when Tucker hopes to be playing collegiately. Despite his productivity in Georgia's second-highest classification that would suggest colleges lining up to get him, Tucker is getting little attention higher than NCAA Division II.
"It's his height that's the issue," Robinson said. "If he was 6-3, everybody in the world would want him, but colleges are so focused on size instead of ability and they miss good football players. He's a lot like [former Georgia all-star linebacker] Rennie Curran, who was 5-9 but was an outstanding football player. Somebody better give him a chance or they are going to miss out."
It's a subject, like his tackles total, that Tucker refuses to worry about. He did, however, offer some logic as to why he's so successful at his size.
"I hit hard. Dynamite comes in small packages," he said with a smile. "I'm lower down to the ground, so I have great aerodynamics and I can get around people before they know it. But they know it when I get there."
The Bruins were considered first-round playoff fodder for Douglas County in 2007. The Tigers had won nine consecutive games and were outscoring their opponents by four touchdowns during that run.
Northwest had lost an overtime game to rival Dalton and a two-point game to region champion Rome, but most considered Douglas to be much too athletic for the Bruins, who were built to play power football. That night, however, brawn won out as the visitors cruised to a 38-21 win that wasn't that close.
"It got ugly for them quickly," said Josh Robinson, then the defensive coordinator and now the head coach. "It was 38-7, I think, when we took our starters out. We knew they were athletic and extremely fast. They missed an open receiver early, and I think that woke our defense up, and after that we didn't have a problem with them.
"Offensively, we were basically running a buck sweep out of the shotgun and it kept hitting 10, 12, 15 yards a pop. That offensive line - led by Dustin Tate, Nathan Postell and Mitch Souther - was wonderful."
Those Bruins, who lost to Tucker the next week, also featured fullback Dustin Barbee and a stellar secondary with Dean Haynes, Romeo Williams and Nate Woodason.