LILBURN — There wasn’t any hesitation on Troy Hoff’s part to sign his Eastside football team back up for the third annual Parkview padded camp when their summer schedule was planned.
After making the 33-mile trek to Lilburn last June for the camp and having an opportunity to compete against Gainesville and Lanier, it was a welcomed sight for the Eagles’ head coach to find his team paired up against the same two teams this June.
“We know these guys,” Hoff said. “Everyone that is here, we work together and get good looks. It’s physical football, it’s scripted and we get all of the good situations that we need. We get to take a look at our kids with real football.”
The Eagles’ Day 1 competition on Monday featured a pairing against the Longhorns, a program Hoff and his staff know all too well. Hoff coached against Lanier head coach Korey Mobbs for two years while both were assistants on their respective coaching staffs in 2012 and 2013.
With an opportunity to bang pads with a program two classifications higher than that of the Eagles, Hoff said the experience was invaluable.
“Day 1, we started off with Lanier and we’re good friends with their staff,” Hoff said. “It’s a good, physical football team. Just having the pads on being physical and fitting gaps with lineman, it’s leverage on your blocks when someone is hitting you. It’s all of those things. I can’t look at one thing, but it’s especially up front. When you’re talking about the front eight, that’s huge for us.”
While most top high school programs in the state of Georgia enter into several 7-on-7 passing competitions over the course of a summer, Hoff and his staff have let it be known that a greater emphasis on padded camps will always hold more value to them.
“7-on-7 is great, but you don’t get the look with the box like you do here and the play action game,” Hoff said. “We’re able to evaluate our players with excellent competition for two days and know how we need to map the rest of our summer.”
After graduating a sizable crop of talent from last year’s roster, one that helped the Eagles reach the Class AAAA quarterfinals, Hoff pointed to the great work of his underclassman on Monday and Tuesday.
An opportunity for them to put on pads against players other than their own teammates in practice is something Hoff said will pay dividends moving forward.
“Some of them are more ahead than others just because they’ve gotten more reps due to the position (that they play),” Hoff said. “We’ve got a lot of young players on this team. This is big for them because now they can move forward the rest of the summer and into camp and actually have something to show them on film.”
One position in particular that has Hoff and his staff evaluating young talent is at wide receiver. The Eagles graduated four out of their top five wideouts from 2018. Only rising senior Colby Shivers remains.
“We’re looking at a lot of guys,” Hoff said. “Some of them play defensive back, too, some linebacker positions on the outside and some safety. We’re trying to figure out whose who and where they fit.
“When you’re putting together a team, you have to look where we’re at both offensively and defensively with those guys and where a lot of those guys can make the biggest impact. And obviously where we have depth. So I think right now, we have a good group. They just have to keep getting better and we’ve got to keep developing depth at those positions.”
Hoff and his staff have also been busy evaluating several other positions such as running back, linebacker and their secondary, which will all feature a lot of turnover from their 2018 team.
“I’m not saying that we’re rebuilding, but we’ve been in situations where we’ve had a smaller group of older players,” Hoff said. “And even if you want to say older, experience is really what it comes down to. We’ve got some younger guys that got some good experience, but it’s guys that haven’t had a lot of snaps.”
With all things considered, Hoff said that through the month of June, he and his staff aren’t upset with the progress that they have made.
“Overall, I think we’re OK with where we’re at,” Hoff said. “You can’t necessarily win June and think everything is great because there is such a long haul to go. We’ve got some guys that will come back off injury and some guys that haven’t taken a lot of snaps with us that will make us better, too.
“Where we’re at now, there’s a few areas where we need to obviously improve and the rate has to pick up, but part of that is, it has to take it’s process. As much as we wish it happened yesterday, those guys have to see it and go through it before they learn it. That’s part of that experience.”