The 2011 season at Camden had one of those negative, “perfect storm” scenarios that every coach and fan dreads.
“Everything that could go wrong seemed to happen,” said veteran Bulldogs coach Jimmy Neal.
“We didn’t do good jobs as coaches, we were young and made mistakes, we had some injuries and things just got away from us. The most frustrating thing was we lost team unity and that was something we didn’t see coming after winning nine games (in 2010).”
Camden finished 2-8, 0-5 in Region 6-3A. It was the worst showing by the Bulldogs since Neal took command at his alma mater in 1998. It was the least successful Camden campaign in 37 years.
In response, Neal brought in three new assistant coaches to help facilitate an attitude adjustment.
“The new guys are young and enthusiastic and have brought in fresh ideas and different thought processes,” Neal said. “It’s been good for everybody. I like what I’m seeing so far.”
There are some solid, experienced players, but Camden is still a junior- and sophomore-dominated team.
Offensively, the Bulldogs figure to be good up front and much improved in the passing game. Finding the right mix in the running game is the big challenge.
The offensive line features junior guards Delton Bradford (6-foot-4, 290 pounds) and Mauric James (6-2, 250), and senior tackle Hunter Rankin — all returning starters.
Senior Josh Council returns at quarterback, as does junior Denzel Martin. Council is the returning starter but Martin saw action in all 10 games a year ago. Council had 628 yards passing and nine touchdowns, while Martin threw for 590 yards and three TDs. Council also ran for 198 yards and two scores.
Seniors Cedric Cook and Jerel Holloman and junior Dontrell Miller are returning starters at receiver in the spread attack. Cook had 25 receptions for 451 yards and two scores, while Holloman had 16 grabs for 186 yards and two TDs.
With Jo Jo Brevard gone, Council is the top returning rusher.
The defense is a work in progress with much depending on how fast a promising group of young linebackers develops.
Veteran seniors Marcus Williams and Zack Caulder are in the mix with returning starter Jace Stukes, a junior. Neal would prefer to leave Williams and Caulder at defensive end and safety, respectively.
Senior defensive end Marquez Griffin, junior nose guard Marquis Workman and junior cornerback Jordan Sumpter are the other veteran building blocks.
With realignment, Camden is back in a Midlands-based region (4-3A) along with A.C. Flora, Chapin, Dreher, Lower Richland and first-year Westwood. The Bulldogs spent the past four seasons in Region 6-3A with no Midlands connection.