Heading into its fourth season of varsity football since Discovery High School opened up, the Titans find themselves at something of a crossroads heading into the 2019 season this fall.
The Titans said goodbye to their first full four-year senior class at graduation ceremonies in May, a development not lost on head coach Efrem Hill.
With the departed seniors having passed the torch to a new generation of Titans, Hill and his staff have spent most of this summer looking to identify which of that new generation will step forward to accept it.
Thus far, Hill has liked what he’s seen as he tries to help the program take a next step forward toward being more competitive in rugged Region 6-AAAAAAA in the upcoming campaign after battling through just four wins over the past three seasons.
“We graduated 28 (seniors from last year), I think,” Hill said. “When you lose that many, we’re not (exactly) starting over, but it kind of feels like it. The good thing is that these kids that are here now, they’re all Discovery kids. They came in and started here. So once they came in, they kind of knew our expectations. They’re doing well.
“We’re competing in the weight room. That’s our big thing for this summer. Let’s just make sure we’re competing in the weight room.”
There has been plenty of competition this summer, not only in the weight room, but also during 7-on-7 passing camps and padded contact camps, including the one that Hill and his staff hosted at Discovery about two weeks ago.
Hill believes his Titans, and every other team that participated in it, got more out of that camp in its second year than it did in last year’s inaugural camp, mainly because he and his staff were much more efficient and organized in running it this time around.
“Last year was actually our first year, and we were kind of doing it at the last minute,” Hill said. “It’s something we’ll do every year now. It’s good for our kids who need to compete, and other teams who need to compete, as well.
“Last year, I put it on at a time when our school had a big teachers conference. So we ended up having to stop it a little early. I made sure this year that I kind of planned it around everything. … Competition is competition. (For) the guys from Gwinnett — South Gwinnett, Central Gwinnett, Berkmar, us, and you had some other teams — it was good competition, good work for our kids.”
Beyond the general work from the summer workouts, Hill has kept an eye on competition for playing time at several different positional groups with openings thanks to graduation of so many seniors.
From a statistical standpoint, the most important ones would seem to be at quarterback, where three-year starter Alex Drazic graduated last season after throwing for 1,529 yards and eight touchdowns, as well as the slot, where departed senior Kobe Johnson accounted for 1,250 yards of total offense and eight more TDs.
“Kobe’s a great player, but I think the biggest thing is we lost our (starting) quarterback,” Hill said. “Alex played, maybe since we opened, he was the quarterback. So that’s the biggest loss, but we’ve got a guy that played quarterback his freshman year and kind of moved around and played receiver, and that’s Terry Lockhart. I think he can get the job done.”
Meanwhile, the Titans will also have openings to fill in the linebacking corps and secondary, while Hill is also keeping an eye on positions where more experience returns.
He is optimistic about the prospects along both lines of scrimmage, where he is looking to returning veterans like center Ariel Gonzalez and tackle Donovan Isaac, both seniors, and junior defensive end J.J. Hawkins, will form a much-needed new nucleus of leadership.
“I think this is the year for our O-line,” Hill said. “That’s what I’ve been telling them. They’ve worked the hardest so far in June. Our O-line was getting better year-by-year, you can tell they’ve kind of grabbed that and said, ‘We’re going to run things this year.’
“They get that you can have the best quarterback-receiver combination you want, but if you can’t protect them up front, you can’t do anything. So our O-line and D-line are going to be our strengths this year. Our experience is along the line, so our skill guys are going to be just as good as the one that just left.”