Posted: Monday, August 13th 2012 at 9:44am
Football 2012: Harrison working on transformation at Jackson Co.
By Jeff Hart Staff
JEFFERSON -- Benji Harrison knew right from the beginning what his biggest challenge would be in turning Jackson County football into a successful program -- one that has posted just five winning seasons in its 32-year history and none since 1992.
“Learning how to win and be successful,” said Harrison, who has his first head coaching job after four years of running the high-powered Flowery Branch offense. “The offense they can learn, the defense they can learn, but changing a mindset is much harder. But, I think there is a lot of talent here and they just need to believe that they can win. Hopefully we can do that.”
Harrison brings the spread attack to Jackson County and has many of the pieces in place to put up some points. Senior quarterback Kyle Daniel has picked up the offense quickly, according to Harrison, and will have two solid targets in juniors Xavier Harper and Ben Brissey to throw to. Senior running back Dustin Scott also returns to help take some early pressure off Daniel, while senior linemen Reno Messler and Josh Ingram will anchor what should be a good offensive front.
“They are still learning the offense but they are catching on fast and having fun with it. Once we get everything implemented and they get more comfortable, I believe they could be a good unit and score some points,” Harrison said.
But Harrison said the real strength of the team, at least early in the season, will be the defense, which will run out of a traditional 4-3 scheme. Senior linemen Chris Foster, River Bryant, and Chandler Lanier will anchor a solid front-seven. Senior Daivon Ledford and junior Evan Breakspear will anchor the linebackers.
“I really like our defense,” Harrison said. “We have some size and speed and experience on the corners. I look for them to be the strength of the team early while the offense continues to learn and get better.”
The Panthers have a chance to build some early momentum with games against Winder-Barrow, winless in 2011, and Athens Christian (2-8 in 2011) sandwiched around a traditional game against cross-town rival Jefferson. They also have four of their first five games at home.
JACKSON COUNTY: NEED TO KNOW
TEAM COLORS: Red, Black, and White
CURRENT REGION: 8-AAA
HEAD COACH/RECORD AT SCHOOL: Benji Harrison, first year
2011 RECORD/ ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 3-7
OFFENSIVE STYLE: Spread -- Harrison will bring same approach to Panthers as he did the Flowery branch offense the past four seasons.
KEY OFFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. RB Dustin Scott, Jr. WR Xavier Harper, Jr. WR Ben Brissey, Sr. QB Kyle Daniel, Sr. OL Reno Messler, Sr. OL Josh Ingram -- Return six starters
DEFENSIVE STYLE: 4-3 -- The Panthers want to play more of a base defense but will bring pressure when necessary.
KEY DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: Sr. FS Garrett Holt, Jr. LB Evan Breakspear, Sr. DL Chris Foster, Sr. LB Daivon Ledford, Sr. DE River Bryant, So. CB Keyshaun Curry, Sr. DE Chandler Lanier -- Return six starters
SPECIAL TEAMS: No starters named as of publication time.
STRENGTH: The defensive front seven -- This group could control games, led by Foster, Bryant, and Lanier.
QUESTION: Learning to win -- Harrison said it is the biggest question for the Panthers, building higher expectations and changing the mindset of the program.
TRENDING: The Panthers have won 11 games the past three seasons, their best three-year stretch since winning 21 times between 1990-92. With a new coach and new schemes there could be some growing pains this season, but Jackson County has the experience returning to be competitive from the start.
Aug. 31 vs. Winder-Barrow
Sept. 7 at Jefferson
Sept. 14 vs. Athens Christian
Sept. 21 vs. East Jackson
Sept. 28 vs. North Oconee
Oct. 5 at Franklin County
Oct. 19 at Hart County
Oct. 26 at Oconee County
Nov. 2 vs. Elbert County
Nov. 9 at Morgan County
© Copyright 2013 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.