Indians putting pieces together for first season under Pardue
by Chris Goltermann
Steve Pardue has watched his share of East Coweta game film since accepting the Indians head football job in late January, enough to have a solid background of the roster he’ll inherit this fall.
But he also knows by now that there are big holes to fill in the lineup — two in particular.
Both quarterback Bryce Gemmel, last year’s Newnan Times- Herald Offensive Player of the Year, and wide-receiver/ safety Markell Boston — who garnered Player of the Year honors for the paper — are now off to play in college.
Combined, the pair accounted for 22 of the Indi- ans’ 38 touchdowns in 2013.
“I got to East Coweta and watched tape and one thing I found out right away offensively is that when they did something good, it was No. 2 or No. 4,” Pardue said. “No. 4’s at Auburn and No. 2’s at Garden City [Community College] so I don’t know who’s going to score for us this year.”
Only fullback Malik Robinson scored more points than the duo. And he too, has moved on to his collegiate career having signed with Middle Georgia.
The end result wasn’t quite the ideal situation considering some of Pardue’s staff — including both coordinators — had yet to be settled in the spring during the program’s last opportunity to workout in full pads prior to Aug. 1. Teams can begin conditioning in helmets on Monday morning though the Indians have been holding regular 3 1⁄2 hour workouts throughout the summer in shirts and shorts.
East Coweta, which was picked to finish third in Region 3-AAAAAA in this week’s preseason poll of head coaches and media members, travels to Griffin for its preseason scrimmage on Thursday, Aug. 14, beforehosting Arabia Mountain in its Aug. 29 season opener.
“I still don’t know a lot of my guys. I almost wish I had a summer before a spring,” Pardue said. “But the guys are working hard and I’m excited about my staff.”
A group of eight Indians assistants, to go with one more expected hire, will be a mix of six of last year’s staff members under Clint Wade to go with new offensive and defensive coordinators.
Pardue hired former LaGrange colleague David Pleasants as his offensive coordinator. The two worked together from 2002-2010 during a run that included two Class AAA state titles and two additional trips to the semifinals.
“He’s coached a lot of years with me. It’ll be a spread offense, though we’ll rely on the wing-T,” Pardue said. “We’re a multiple wing, though. We’ll get into two or three wide receiver sets. Some are things we did at Kentucky and what David has done at LaGrange or what I’ve done at LaGrange.”
Offensive assistants returning this fall include line coach Jamie Glover, receivers coach Andy Washington, tight ends coach Trace Overton and quarterbacks coach J.R. Revere — who started for three years at LaGrange during Pardue’s tenure.
“That’s exciting for me because his dad is one of my best friends, John Revere. J.R. was my first quarterback at LaGrange High School. So it’s fun to be back with J,” he said.
Pardue has also backed away from taking a more dominating role in the weight-room as he did in LaGrange by keeping Glover, a former assistant at Sandy Creek, in control.
“The biggest compliment I can give him is I’ve left him in the weight room,” Pardue said. “When I was at LaGrange, I ran my own weight room. But I was so impressed with him that I’ve left him in there and he’s done a really good job with it. While replacing the production of both Gemmel and Boston is a bit more challenging, there are capable replacements. Senior receiver, E.J. Ransom, who has been limited in workouts while coming off an injury, led the Indians in 2013 with 38 receptions.
“He just got released [to play] about two weeks ago and I think he’s going to be a good player for us,” Pardue said of Ransom.
East Coweta won’t quite have the same amount of experience at quarterback, where Gemmel attempted all but two passes for the Indians in 2013. Sophomore Will LaGuardia is expected to get the first crack at the opening after serving as last year’s No. 1 backup.
“He’s probably built more like a linebacker than a quarterback, but he’s had a real good summer and works really hard,” Pardue said.
Another sophomore with ample size, Carlos Ford, could equally provide a boost in the backfield at 250 pounds, while Alex Branch has equally impressed.
Senior center Dawson Ellis (6-5, 265) leads three starters back on the offensive line.
Former Griffin defensive coordinator Rusty Easom also enters his first year at East Coweta in the same capacity. The Bears allowed an average of 13 points-per-game during the past seven seasons while posting 17 shutouts.
Easom will try to improve a unit that gave up a 26.4- point average a year ago. The defensive assistants include returning staff members Tom Gochenour (line) and Darron Edwards (secondary).
“I’ve been happy with all those guys,” Pardue said. “We’re trying to hire one more coach right now. Hopefully we’ll have that done.”
Defensive line could be one of the Indians’ greatest strengths, enough to allow Easom to shift talented sophomore Jeremiah Gemmel to linebacker after posting five sacks in his first varsity season. Seniors Noah Ruther-ford and Alex Heard lead the returners while Pardue feels Jamal Thomas (6-2, 300) could step in and contribute after tearing his ACL last summer.
Starting linebacker Tyler Poythress, who was second on the Indians behind Boston with 66 tackles, also returns. Pardue is equally excited about what he’s seen in senior defensive back Kevin Lashley, who moves into Boston’s safety position.
“I just fell in love with the kid immediately. Just a really talented guy,” Pardue said. “I think he’s got a chance to play at the next level.”