After easily taking the TVC-Ohio crown and slipping into the playoffs in 2018 the Athens Bulldogs find themselves in an unusual position, a new coach, a new quarterback, and a new line on offense and defense. This has left the TVC licking its chops, knowing that the 'Dogs hold on the title might not be so firm.
Nathan White and the Bulldogs aren't too worried about what the rest of the TVC thinks, and a TVC-Ohio title is always the goal in The Plains. A busy and energetic locker room surrounded White as he handled some of the non-glamorous head coach duties, like taking shirt sizes.
White believes that's the biggest change to his position, handling the "little things". But White, who ran the Athens offense at a historic level, still has his hands all over the Bulldog offense.
What did we already know?
Athens has options in their receiver room, and that groups talent should shine in 2019. Senior Nate Trainer headlines a group of absolute burners; Peyton Gail can absolutely fly and produced at a high level in his sophomore season, and numerous other weapons should emerge, including senior Aiden Kostival.
The ability to make catches in the open field and run after the catch is what gives Athens a real edge over a lot of TVC-Ohio teams. It's hard to guard the amount of legitimate weapons Athens has, and that isn't common in the TVC. This makes Athens a dominant team in the 7-on-7 world, and they showcased that during their 7-on-7's.
What did we learn?
Quarterback Joey Moore is coming along faster than most thought he would. Coach White and Moore are tight-knit and the Athens offense won't have to pull punches or simplify anything for the Junior. When White has this much confidence in a player, it's smart to trust him. The last three quarterbacks groomed by White have been all-state players, and Joey Moore is faster than Burrow, Sano, and Davis.
Expect Athens to go empty backfield a lot this season. This will reduce the pressure on the inexperienced Athens line and give Moore the freedom to use his athleticism as he pleases. Moore has a chance to be one of the TVC leaders in rushing and passing yardage. The Athens offense will rely on his athleticism and will have to trust his decision-making. There will be highlights with Moore, but finding that consistency and limiting turnovers is the real challenge for him.
What we still don't know
It is still unclear who will make up the Athens front. White felt confident the line play would figure itself out with about nine mostly inexperienced players competing for spots up front. Experience, not athleticism or size, will be the problem for Athens up front. Normally the new contributors for Athens would have an easy game against Warren to get their feet wet. Well, now the Bulldogs will hit the road to play the Waverly Tigers in week one. The Bulldogs line will need to find that experience fast, or it could be the downfall of the Athens offense.
There is no way to produce an accurate floor/ceiling for this Athens team. There are so many new pieces, and we know what those pieces are, but we don't know how they'll operate. This team could finish 5-5 or could go 10-0, both are real possibilities. If the line can't get out of its own way and Moore turns the football over Athens could have a long season. But, if White has brought a new level of energy and excitement to the program, the line is serviceable, and Moore fulfills the hype, this team could score points in bunches.