Something unheard of happened in Smyrna in 2012.
Not only did the Bulldogs not make the playoffs, they had their worst record since 1988.
However, things appear to be on the upswing at Robert L. Raikes Stadium this season.
“I think we have a chance to be a pretty good football team,” Smyrna coach Matt Williams said. “That’s something I believe. We’ve got a good group of kids that are fun to coach.
“We’ll be a good football team, we just have to keep working at the little things.”
Matt Rodell took his lumps last season as the a first-year starter at quarterback. However, he has shown progress in the preseason.
Rodell threw for 425 yards last year. He has shown comfort level with receivers, especially Darrell Haralson, Calvin Mosbey and D.J. Williams. Those three give Rodell athletic targets who can make plays.
Pernell Whittaker (95 receiving yards) also will be in the mix at receiver along with tight ends Ladarius Turner and Tim Sebree.
An improved passing attack should open up the run game, which has shown depth in the preseason. LaDarius Summers (295 rushing yards) will be the No. 1 option for the Bulldogs after coming on strong late in the season. He brings speed in the backfield. But Rodney Shelton and Devin Smith — who is Summers’ brother — also will have chances to carry the ball. Taylor Gardner, Keydexon Brown and Austin Brown will split time at fullback.
The return of the run game is crucial for the Bulldogs, who rushed for just 706 yards during last year’s 1-9 season.
All-district lineman Jonathan Reynolds, a senior, helps anchor down the offensive line. He’ll be joined by seniors Landon Ramey, Alex Stanley, junior Tyler Dillon and sophomore Josh Baker. Baker, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman, started several games as a freshman.
The defense struggled in 2012, giving up 29.9 points and more than 357 yards a game. But the Bulldogs have shown in the preseason that a year of experience has been good to them.
Dillon (end), Gary Poindexter (nose guard) and Jacob Brittain (end) will anchor the defensive line with Keith Skinner, AustinWilfong and Abraham Hasan backing them up.
Austin Brown, Keydexon Brown, Shelton and Joey Walls will share time at outside linebacker while Jaccario Vaughn, Dallas Padgett, Gardner and Dagan Fultz will split time at inside linebacker.
Williams (three INTs) is a lock-down corner and will be joined by Whittaker at the other corner. Ian Cleveland and Summers will also share time. Ikenna Okeke and Mosbey are the safeties with Jackson Simpson and Kalub Epley backing them up.
Rodell will remain busy on special teams. He’ll likely continue to be the team’s punter and kicker. Helman Garcia is another option at kicker.