He won’t know what his depth chart looks like until August.
There’s a battle at every position, Varner said, and that includes the backfield, where Josh Bettistea is returning for his senior year after leading the county with 1,938 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns last year.
The competition at running back was a healthy one during spring drills. Although it’s Bettistea’s job to lose based on his numbers and accolades, rising junior Russell Halimon is making plenty of noise.
Two quarterbacks — Conner Larson and Brandon Rainey — spent the spring proving themselves. While Larson, who will be a senior, is the returning starter after passing for 1,169 yards and 10 touchdowns, Rainey, a rising junior, also received varsity snaps a year ago.
“This makes your job hard, but it’s good at the same time,” said Varner, who led Allatoona into the state playoffs for the fourth straight season. “Both of them know what the deal is, and both are working really hard.”
Varner said the battle between tight ends Walker Dunlap and Turner Cockrell is also an engaging one, and four players are competing for two spots on the offensive line.
Allatoona appeared to be in rebuilding mode this time a year ago, after it graduated 18 of 22 starters from its 2012 state quarterfinal team. But the younger Buccaneers grew fast, came together and put together a 7-4 season that saw them fall in the first round of the state playoffs to eventual state semifinalist Kell.
This spring is a different situation. The majority of last year’s group is back, and the players understood quickly that they would have to earn their playing time this season.
“We’ve done a great job with competition between the kids,” Varner said. “We’re pretty confident who the two-deeps are, but everyone is competing with somebody for a spot. We’ll see how they work over the summer. They’ve had a good attitude so far.”
Allatoona has to replacing veteran linebacker Justin Wade, who had 115 tackles and three sacks last season. His successor hasn’t been determined yet, but Varner talked about other battles taking place on the defensive line.
With a deep line this season, Brett Dunkin and Allen Johnson will have to earn their starting positions, and Camden Rhodes will have to solidify his spot at defensive end.
Duncan had 52 tackles last season, while Johnson had two sacks.
“There is truly a lot of competition,” Varner said. “The kids are worried, and that’s a good thing.”