The Gainesville Red Elephants finished last season 12-2 and were knocked out of the Class AAA state semifinals by Burke County. Entering 2012, the Red Elephants are looking to build off of last year's success as they move up to Class AAAAA. For coach Bruce Miller, the goal for this team remains the same despite the step up in competition.
"Our goal every year is to try and get to the state championship," said Miller
Gainesville returns six starters on offense, including star junior quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson has already pledged his commitment to Clemson, and after a stand-out sophomore year where he threw for over 3000 yards and rushed for more than 1000, Watson is poised to take the Red Elephants to the next level. As Watson develops, so does the offense, and this year he will be given more responsibilities at the line of scrimmage such as checking off plays and audibling in his third year as the field general.
"He is taking over out there, checking off, changing the plays and he's got a very good handle of what we are trying to do and what we're trying to develop in a field general," said Miller.
The Red Elephants also return their starting running back and three of their leading receivers from 2011. This will allow the offense to open up the playbook and run more intricate plays than last year.
"We're going to be able to do a lot of things offensively," said Miller. We feel like we have a lot of weapons and we plan on using them."
The biggest challenge for Gainesville will be replacing four of last year's starting linemen, but Miller noted that is nothing new for this team.
"It seems like we've been in this situation the last two years," said Miller. "We had a bunch of guys jump in there and fill in the blanks and it ended up being a great year, and I think that'll happen again this year."
Defensively, Miller pointed out two players, linebacker Devon Stringer and strong safety Fred Payne, who he feels will have big impacts this coming year. The defense has six new players coming into starting roles, but behind the leadership of Stringer and Payne, Miller feels his defense will be a force to be reckoned with.