L-R: BOBBY CAMPBELL (RG/DT) JR CHRIS ROPER (S/SL) SR JONATHAN GOUGH (QB/P) JR - Photos Andy Calvert
A change at the top won’t be quite as difficult for the Adairsville Tigers this season, as former defensive coordinator John Cudd fills the shoes of former coach Eric Bishop. Cudd is quite familiar with the program and is excited to see what the group of players can accomplish going forward.
“When Coach Bishop retired, he told me he wasn’t worried about me being the head coach, but he told me being the coach and remaining the defensive coordinator might be a lot,” Cudd says. “I’ve kind of felt some of that recently with us competing in some 7 vs 7’s, but it’s coming along and I’m adjusting.”
Bishop took the Tigers to the playoffs seven times in nine years and Adairsville reached the playoffs again last season. The foundation of a solid program is already in place, and Cudd, his charges, and the coaching staff are working to keep building on it.
“We have a great group of guys and kids. They are obviously making the transition to me as the head coach,” he says. “They’re focused on just building on what we’ve been doing here. We know these kids always have chances to go play somewhere else, but I feel like the majority of our kids want to be here and are excited to be here.”
Ironically, the Tigers lost a lot from their defense from last season but return a lot of offensive firepower, meaning Cudd and his coaches have work to do to get the defense back in shape for region play.
“We have our work cut out for us. We lost a lot defensively, and we are replacing them with some young kids,” Cudd says. “We have a lot of guys coming back on offense which is going to help.”
The offense returns four starters on the offensive line as well as some key weapons, including quarterback Jonathan Gough and wide receivers Chris Roper, Evan Sanders, and Grayson Belcher.
“Jonathan is a big kid who stepped in last year and started every game at quarterback. He is a kid who can make plays with his legs and his arm, and I’m expecting a big year out of him,” Cudd says.
“Chris Roper is another very dangerous one. He plays all over the place on offense and defense, returns kicks, he really does it all,” Cudd says.
Cudd mentions that Bobby Campbell, James Foster, Mason Tordrup, and Luke Alter all started on the line last year and bring a wealth of experience to the Tigers.
“I feel like one of the things that I bring to the table is that I have a really good understanding of our defense. It’s a struggle because we do have to replace a lot of guys,” Cudd says. “We’ve got kids that have been in the program, but it’s tough when you are replacing 85 percent of your tackles from last year.”
However, Cudd mentions that he bellies the Tigers linebackers will be solid and they have plenty of kids ready to play, they just don’t have tons of game experience.
Adairsville’s region underwent a few changes with Rockmart leaving and Gordon Lee, Ridgeland, and Bremen coming in. The Tigers are familiar with those foes though, as they’ve played them in the past few years or met them in preseason games.
Cudd mentions that there are no easy region games and that every opponent will be fighting hard when they play the Tigers.
And as the days move closer to kickoff, Cudd gets excited about what lies ahead.
“I put in for the job because of the people around us. We have a great support staff. The coaches and everybody are behind you. We’ve poured a whole lot into these kids the last few years,” Cudd says. “We are always tweaking ourselves trying to find ways to be more efficient and be better, and we continue to do that. That’s how we have sustained success over the past few years. I’m proud of these guys. We’ve been through a lot the past few months, but it’s been good.”