Corey Cusick/ Times-Georgian
As the Carrollton High School football team prepares for Thursday's 7:30 p.m. preseason scrimmage against Bremen and final tuneup before going live in two weeks, one area that the Trojan coaching staff is wanting to get a good look at is the skill.
Upon graduating its leading passer, rusher and receiver, there will be a fresh set of skill donning the Black and Gold this fall.
But there's no need to panic — these guys can all play.
The Trojans are perhaps deeper in the backfield than at any position on the team with junior Kodee Brewer back as the leading returning rusher from last season, while seniors Kaleb Thomaston and Trent Lane are also viable weapons. Rounding out the group is junior Brandon Marenco, sophomore Montarious Banks and freshman Keshawn Ridley.
"We've got a good group. If one guy takes the load, great. If not, it'll be a running back-by-committee. You see other high school teams and you see college and NFL teams rotate in backs and try to keep them fresh. If we have the ability to do that, it would be great," Trojan head coach Sean Calhoun said.
Brewer believes Carrollton's depth in the backfield will wear down opposing defenses with the ability to pound different guys across the line of scrimmage throughout the evening.
"We're really deep and we all bring a different skill set to the table. It's good that we're deep because we all can stay fresh and have a good time," Kodee Brewer said.
Thomaston, too, has high expectations for the Trojan ground game in 2018.
"We're a family back there. Other teams are going to have a hard time trying to stop us," Thomaston said. "If one of us gets tired, we can put in another one right away and come in with the same amount of effort as the other one had."
Lane is a newcomer to the program this season after transferring in from Randolph County, Alabama, and the physical back has fit in well with his new teammates leading up to the 2018 kickoff.
"At first, it was a little hectic. But I've stayed with it and worked on the plays and signals and stuff and I'm starting to get it now," Lane said.
Although the Trojans graduated two talented receivers in Jordan Bonner, who is now at Purdue University, and last year's leading receiver, Dalton Benefield, they reload with the likes of seniors Isaiah Lancaster and Virgil Brewer, along with junior Miles McLendon all returning with experience from last season.
That group will be complemented by junior Austin Waldrop and sophomores Steven Slappey, Grant Briscoe, Chael Sullivan, Montravious McDaniel and Ajani Williams. Carrollton will also feature Chase Sippola and Mason Covell at tight end.
"We've got some kids with some height and some kids that are smaller kids, but quick and have got some speed. We've got some guys who are just good technicians at running routes. The one thing for us is they've got to know how to block. They've got to be willing to block, and these kids are," Calhoun said. "It's a good balance of experience and a good balance of inexperience. But they're not going to be afraid of the Friday night lights."
Lancaster, who hauled in 38 receptions for 464 yards and four touchdowns last year, is confident that the Trojan receiving corp can be just as deep and potent as the run attack in 2018.
"I feel like the receivers are going to be our strength," Lancaster said. "We've got Miles McLendon, Virgil and then Slappey. They've all got experience. I feel like we've got the best receivers in the region."
Virgil Brewer also expects the Trojans to more than hold their own through the air this fall.
"In the past we would only have one or two receivers, but this year we've got four or five we can depend on," Virgil Brewer said.
The Trojans finished 2017 with a different signal-caller than who started the year, as Mark Wright went down with an injury and was replaced by then-sophomore Kashif Taylor.
Now a junior, Taylor is battling freshman Myles Morris and sophomore Kyle Wnuck for the starting job and the Trojan receivers don't feel they'll miss a beat in developing that championship chemistry.
"It really doesn't feel that different because Kashif stepped up and took Mark's spot when Mark got hurt. Kashif knows what to do. It's the same program, same plays, same everything," Lancaster said.
And whether it's the passing attack or ground game, the Trojan skill players have one focus this fall.
"Touchdown after touchdown after touchdown," Thomaston said.