It’s been a tough go for Camden and veteran coach Jimmy Neal of late.
The proud Bulldogs have gone 5-15 overall and 0-10 in region play over the past two seasons, and allowed a school-record 416 points a year ago.
Neal, however, believes things will be better in 2013.
“I’m very pleased with the way things have gone during the offseason,” said the veteran Camden boss, who is 114-65 in 15 seasons at his alma mater.
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“The guys have worked hard, and I’m excited about the gains they’ve made. I think we have a chance to have some success.”
If the Bulldogs are to turn the corner, a dramatic improvement on defense is necessary.
“You bet it’s a priority, and I’ll be surprised if we’re not a lot better this season,” said Neal. “We have a lot of guys back. They are bigger, stronger and have a better idea of what we’re doing on defense. We also have a lot more competition for playing time than we did last year, which makes a big difference.”
The defensive line features nose guard Delton Bradford (6-foot-4, 307 pounds) and end Welton Cauthen (6-4, 195). Omar Mingo (6-0, 178) and Jace Stukes (6-0, 217) return at outside linebacker. The secondary welcomes back Darius Smith and Jordan Sumpter at cornerback and Nelson Semple at safety.
Camden remains a spread team on offense, but could focus more on the run with the return of Brandon Hampton and Kendrice Slater to the backfield. The fleet Hampton ran for 473 yards and three touchdowns a year ago, while Slater (5-9, 205) scored nine touchdowns as a short-yardage man as a sophomore.
“Those guys will share the load more this year, and we could run with two backs at times,” Neal said.
The offensive line figures to be strong with the return of center Jacob Kersey (6-0, 275), guard Mauric James (6-3, 275), tackle Charlie Nash (6-4, 215) and tight end Chase Truesdale (6-5, 206).
The receiving corps is another area of strength with seniors Dontrell Miller (33 catches, 413 yards, 3 touchdowns), Alex Cooke (15-146-2) and Truesdale (14-160-1) back in the mix.
Senior Denzel Martin is the projected starter at quarterback. He’s been the backup for two seasons, and missed seven games with an injury last season.