Phil Jones knew that Shorter’s move to Division II would be difficult, but in the best interest of the program.
This season’s schedule is part of the process.
The Hawks will face defending national champion Valdosta State and Charleston Southern, an FCS program, in addition to traditionally strong Division II teams North Alabama, Carson-Newman, West Alabama and Delta State.
Carson-Newman reached the quarterfinals and West Alabama advanced to the second round of the playoffs in 2012. North Alabama and Delta State have won national championships, and join Valdosta State in the Gulf South Conference, which is Shorter’s new home.
“The schedule is difficult, but we’re going to learn what it takes to get there,” Jones said. “I feel like our players want to do that. That’s real big, that they do.”
Shorter finished 6-5 last season, its first in the transition to Division II. The Hawks defeated West Georgia and Delta State and lost 23-20 to Charleston Southern.
Shorter opens this year at Charleston Southern on Sept. 7.
Jones, who has coached the program since its start in 2005, has a strong group of upperclassmen to help with the move.
They include quarterback Eric Dodson (Thomas County Central), fullback Bradley Moon (Salem), linebackers Dominique Henfield (Calvary Day School) and Josh White (Calhoun), and linebacker/safety Zach Mann (Whitewater).
Moon rushed for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns and Dodson added 571 and 10 scores rushing. He also threw for 972 yards and six TDs. Henfield was second on the team with 44½ tackles.
“We have a great group of guys who have been there, who have a great attitude about (the schedule),” Jones said.
Clark Atlanta first-year coach Kevin Weston sent a tweet this week asking folks for their opinions about whether he should wear a visor or hat on the sideline.
Follow him @CoachWeston_ and let him know what you think.
Coach Danny Cronic likes what he’s seen out of several of his players as the Eagles play the first game in program history at Mercer.
Ryan Thompson, Jonathan Chamblee (Savannah Christian) and Dylan Haynes (Cherokee) likely will see time at quarterback. Cronic said Christian Hill (Lovejoy) has “had a great fall” at cornerback.
Projected middle linebacker Alvarez Thomas (Monticello) will miss the season with a knee injury.
Cronic, a longtime high school coach in Georgia, hasn’t been on the sideline during a game since 2010.
“It’s been a while, but we’re excited,” he said. “I’ll be excited to be out there.”
D2Football.com Top 100
Eight players from state schools made D2Football.com’s Top 100 players for 2013. They are:
Around the state
Most of the state’s teams open the season on Sept. 7. … There’s a UGA feel to Reinhardt’s coaching staff. Assistants Quentin Moses (defensive ends), Tony Taylor (defensive tackles) and Drew Cronic (offensive coordinator) all played for the Bulldogs. And former kicker Rex Robinson is helping out with the special teams. … Albany State offensive coordinator Steve Smith was an offensive line coach with the Kansas City Chiefs last season. … Weston said Aaron Heyward and freshman Trent Earl (Stockbridge) were sharing time at QB. Heyward graduated from Rutgers, where he was a WR, and enrolled at Clark. … Former Auburn All-America DT David Rocker, who attended old Fulton High School in Atlanta, is the new coach at The Point. He replaced Kevin Porter, who was hired as assistant head coach/defensive backs at West Georgia this summer.
Bluefield College at The Point, noon
Georgia Military at Snow College, 2 p.m.
Savannah State at Georgia Southern, 6 p.m.
Reinhardt at Mercer, 6 p.m.
Follow me on Twitter @AJ_Writes.