Maintaining the program’s recent level of success becomes the next challenge.
Marietta concluded spring practice with as many answers as it had questions.
The Blue Devils lost three-year starting quarterback Anthony Jennings and top receiver Tyree Harris, bound for LSU and Wake Forest, respectively. Along the offensive line, Marietta lost four linemen — Davis Wilson, Alex Wilkerson, Jamel Johnson and Josh Boateng — who were three-year starters.
“Everybody talks about the skill guys,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said, “but, just as significant, we’ve lost four starting offensive linemen who had lots of experience and wisdom. Those guys will be tough to replace. They’ve been through a lot of games, and there wasn’t a moment that went by that wasn’t too big for them.”
The absences on defense are even more noticeable.
Defensively, Marietta lost three of its four starting defensive linemen — Trey Warren, Trey Bartlett and Jan Robles —linebacker Drew McCollum and secondary players Peter Savic, Amanuel Gantt and Montrel Heard.
“We lost a lot of key guys (on defense), too,” Burton said. “All of them were starters who had been through a ton of games. That’s seven guys on defense and six on offense, so the biggest challenge is replacing all of that experience.”
Burton won’t have to look too far to find the personnel necessary to help with the transition. He still has several veteran players on both sides of the ball who can help carry the load as the less-experienced players grow into their roles.
“We still have some guys returning that are proven and will help us in the long run,” Burton said.
Jordan Mathis and Marcus Bennett returns at wide receiver, while leading rusher KirVonte Benson is also back. Isaiah Borne is the Blue Devils’ lone returning starter along the offensive line.
“Both of our receivers will be three-year starters, and KirVonte was a sophomore last year,” Burton said. “Isaiah will be in his second year, and we’re going to rely on these guys a little more because of their experience.”
Linebacker Tyrell Tomlin has been on varsity since his freshman season, and Lawton Ward, another three-year starter, also returns. Defensive lineman Chris Flood is back for his second year, defensive back T.J. Bulock also returns and Ian Shannon is back as the kicker and punter.
Defensive end Andrew Thomas, linebacker Onterrio Lay and defensive back Kadeem Wallington didn’t start last year, but they did contribute.
“These are all guys we’re going to lean on,” Burton said. “All three of these guys played a lot for us last year, so we’re expecting to see good things from them again. Tomlin is being recruited by some well-known schools, and Lawton was a state champion in wrestling, so he’s a really tough kid.”
With certain key positions already identified, Burton used spring practice as a way to see what guys had to offer and to make sure everyone was on the same page.
“We made a conscious decision this spring to not worry about scheme,” he said. “We focused on identifying who can play and contribute. We worked on fundamentals and skills. It was a great spring. We got back to basics and focused on players. It was a success.
“As we move forward, we’re going to sprinkle some young kids in as we go. Brenton Martin will most likely inherit the quarterback duties. He was (Jennings’) backup last year. He obviously needs to gain experience. He can run and pass and is a competitive, athletic kid. We look forward to having him.”