Rutland head coach George Collins was understandably frustrated about how last year’s season went.
After his team made the playoffs two years ago and lost to eventual state champion Griffin in the first round, Collins thought the Hurricanes had turned the corner and were looking forward to another playoff run. But after losing both starting linebackers to ACL injuries early in the season, the Hurricanes were never able to quite get it going and struggled to a three-win season.
With Jimel Dean and Anthony Whitehead back in the fold as seniors, Collins is once again looking toward a solid season.
“I don’t know if I have ever had a season with so many injuries to key players,” Collins said. “It was a tough growing year for us, but we had a bunch of young guys who had to step up and play probably before they were ready to, and I think that will benefit us this year. We didn’t respond well last year when adversity hit us, but I have seen an attitude change since January.
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“I think they realize what they have to do to be successful on the football field, and it has really been a fun group to work with.”
Dean, who was the leading tackler on the team two years ago as a sophomore, lasted only one game last year before tearing his ACL at practice before the second game.
“The most frustrating part of the injury was watching my team struggle,” said Dean, who said his knee is now 100 percent. “I tried not to get too mad about it because I knew God had my back, but I did miss playing a lot. This is my senior year, and I know that I have to go 200 percent at all times and lead by example.
“Everyone here believes that we can have a playoff type of year, and everyone is working hard.”
Whitehead went down in the fifth game of the season against Peach County and admitted he was frustrated with the injury.
“It was a big downer for me, but I just had to accept it and try to make the best of it,” Whitehead said. “It was very difficult to watch my team struggle, but I did my best to keep everyone motivated. It wasn’t a great year for us, but everyone feels we can turn it around this year.”
And the chance to do that and build something with a new season has Collins excited once again about his team.
“I still love it,” the 59-year-old Collins said. “I know it’s always very hot, but this is what I have done my whole life, and I really don’t know anything else. I know that we have a very coachable group of kids this year, and we feel like we can put together a strong team.”
ABOUT THE RUTLAND HURRICANES
Head coach: George Collins (43-98 in 14 seasons overall; 22-49 in seven seasons at Rutland).
Assistant coaches: Chip Stuart (offensive coordinator); Randy Roland (defensive coordinator); Preston Keck, Zac Grace, David Kelly, Ricky Willard, Ron Christian, Jason Griffeth, Chris Lowther.
Offensive scheme: Multiple.
Defensive scheme: 3-4.
2014 record: 3-7.
Region: GHSA 2-AAA.
Returning starters: Five on offense; five on defense.
Players to watch: Edwin Walton (Sr., WR); Jimel Dean (Sr., LB); Anthony Whitehead (Sr., LB); Devonte Dumas (Sr., S).
Aug. 28 vs. Westside
Sept. 3 vs. Northeast
Sept. 11 vs. Howard
Sept. 18 Kendrick
Sept. 25 at Peach County
Oct. 2 Jordan
Oct. 9 vs. Southwest
Oct. 16 Spencer
Oct. 29 vs. Central
Nov. 6 at Jackson