Football Fridays in Georgia: Players to Watch and Season Predictions
On this week's podcast Hannah and Jon are joined by Todd Holcomb, founder and editor of the Georgia High School Football Daily, to talk about players to watch, teams to look out for, underdogs, and season predictions.
Hannah Goodin: Jon Nelson. I'm so glad that you were here on my podcast today.
Jon Nelson: You've got two of the top teams ever in the history of wins in high school football in the United States.
Hannah Goodin: Wild!
Jon Nelson: That's like The Price is Right qualifiers.
Hannah Goodin: My brain is exploding!
Jon Nelson: Say the secret word, win a hundred dollars.
Hannah Goodin: That was the secret word.
Jon Nelson: Dylan Raiola's the secret word.
Jon Nelson: Welcome to another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast here at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Thanks for accessing us. However, you are doing so large device or small video audio come up both the GPB Sports app. Choice D All the above. And it is the weekly version. We are back.
Hannah Goodin: We're back weekly. And so of course, we are in a no dilli no daily zone because it's either week zero, week one. We'll get into that discussion when we're done.
Hannah Goodin: I still don't think we have figured that out in the seven years we've worked together, but I'm going to say happy week zero, everyone. High school football begins this week with some of the kickoff classics. We're going to catch up with our friend Todd Holcomb, who's the founder and editor of the Georgia High School Football Daily. We are going to talk about players to watch, teams to watch underdogs and fun crystal ball prediction.
Jon Nelson: Okay. Yeah, we're holding Todd to all of these, is what you're saying.
Hannah Goodin: Okay, Jon, give me a give me a quick crystal ball prediction.
Jon Nelson: Um, let's see. The team that scores the most points at the Georgia Dome in each of the eight championship games is going to be a champion in 2023. How about that?
Hannah Goodin: You're no fun. Let's bring on Todd.
Jon Nelson: Wow.
Hannah Goodin: Todd, I know it's always time for high school football when I start getting my 4 a.m. emails GHSF Daily. Yeah, I got to remember to silence my phone now.
Jon Nelson: Yeah, you do.
Hannah Goodin: So, Todd, welcome on. We're so excited to have you. Let's start with some of your crystal ball predictions. Since I couldn't squeeze any out of Jon this year.
Todd Holcomb: Okay, Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I feel so great to be here on the first, you know, the first weekly Monday, you know.
Jon Nelson: Battin' lead off.
Todd Holcomb: The week of the first games and to have me on, that's pretty cool. So I'm so crystal ball crystal ball picks. You know I think a lot of the teams that were good last year are going to be good again. That's not really going out early on that that often happens. But that's I don't think I don't think any of the defending champs are going to be terrible. I think they're all going to be pretty good. I think most of them might still be the favorite or at least half of them. So. So do you want me to kind of go down the classes or what would you like for me to chat about?
Jon Nelson: First, let's let's do the overarching thing, because I know that we look at 7a and it's like Buford, because they have like every top 100 prospect, they have 107 of the top 100 prospects in all of 7A. Hughes, we figure Hughes is going to be really right there as one of the repeats in 6A. Can Ware County repeat in 5A? Can Benedictine repeat in quad? That region with Cedar Grove can they repeat and triple? Double A with Fitzgerald and Thompson, what is that going to look like class A?
Hannah Goodin: So you did decide to give some crystal ball predictions?
Jon Nelson: No I'm just no, I'm a no.
Hannah Goodin: Or are you just answering for Todd?
Jon Nelson: No I'm stipulating with with our champions and our runner ups. Last year D1 you had, you know you had.
Hannah Goodin: This was my question to Todd.
Jon Nelson: I know, But what I'm asking is in a follow up for you, Todd's mentioning OC champs and runners up. How many of these 16 do you anticipate being in the last game of the year?
Todd Holcomb: Oh was that for me?
Jon Nelson: Yeah, it was for you.
Todd Holcomb: Oh.
Jon Nelson: Comma, Todd. The 16 teams that finished, how many of those 16 do you anticipate in the finals again this year?
Todd Holcomb: 11.3.
Jon Nelson: There you go. I like. Yeah, I like the specificity.
Todd Holcomb: That's about right. 11 is the over under.
Jon Nelson: Okay, So. So it actually.
Todd Holcomb: Yeah, it's probably closer to 9. But I like most all those teams. Okay, so in 7A, I mean, certainly Carrollton and Mill Creek, I think they could both come back. Everybody would think Carrollton because they've got this super sophomore quarterback Juju Lewis. But Mill Creek has as much high end talent as they have last year. They don't have Caleb Downs, but I mean, you know, they don't have a quarterback, but otherwise just- they probably have as much talent. You know the problem is. Buford. So, you know, both those teams have to get through there. So here's in Gainesville and six they got them right one to Ware County and Warner Robins, I've got them 1-3, I think Ware and that that 5A is really more wide open because Ware is rebuilding a little bit as well. But I don't think there's anything that really stands out really far east of where or Warner Robins made the pile again, I wouldn't be surprised. Benedectine, big favorite to win again their third straight 4A. And I mean I think Cedar Town will be down. You know they had a really good team they're not always up there just you know, had a really good run. So they might have a tough time. Cedar Grove, I think they always you know, their number one, they were the runner up last year to Sandy Creek. Sandy Creek is probably rebuilding more than most any of the state champions. So I'm not going to predict them to be back in the final, but I think they're a top ten team. It was Fitzgerald and Thompson who got them. One three. Fitzgerald's there every year. Thompson again, kind of like Cedartown or maybe like, say, the same crew. You know, they had a little bit of a, you know, just a big year that they have every now and then. But I think they'll I think they'll be good again. Prince Avenue Christian, the defending champ, they're ranked number one, I got Swainsboro, too. So I think they can both get back. And then I've got Bowden one and two in the division two. So I think they can get back. So yeah, I think I mean. I think they can, you know, almost all of them, except for two or three.
Jon Nelson: 11.3. We're going with that answer.
Hannah Goodin: Well I've declared myself the host of this podcast. And Jon, you are also a guest. Okay, so now my questions are going to be to you two.
Jon Nelson: Okay.
Hannah Goodin: So we're going to go to you first, Jon. Yeah. So on the flip side of this.
Jon Nelson: Uh huh.
Hannah Goodin: Who is a good underdog? Somebody that could just slip into the playoffs, get into the championships that you would never think. So, Jon, you go first. And then Jon, you ask Todd.
Jon Nelson: Well, tell you what. I'm going to filibuster. I'm going to ask Todd first so I can look at my brackets.
Hannah Goodin: Okay. Todd. Underdog.
Todd Holcomb: Well, you know, I haven't looked at brackets and that's the key to it. Jon's smart to look ahead. I haven't really looked at how those matchups would play out. The only one that a lot of people and this is not a big secret if you're following it close but I think a lot of people will. Their eyes were open when we had like five preseason all state guys from Hiram, you know, I mean, Hiram did make the playoffs last year and they had got four guys in the top 100 recruits this year and they had a good team last year. I think they beat Calhoun or it was Cartersville one or the other in the upset them but really tough region and now the you know fallen into bit but you know they could be really good and they've never really made any noise, and another team in that region is Cass. They've always been in the shadow of Cartersville and they're really good. I mean, Cass and Hiram have more. And their top five players are probably better than the top players at Calhoun and Cartersville, these traditional state powers in that region. Now, whether they have the depth to get it done, that remains to be seen. But those are two teams regular you see there. So you talk about that can make a big run.
Jon Nelson: Okay, I'll go AD2. I'll give you two. The way that the brackets could fall out, Aquinus in Early County.
Hannah Goodin: Ooh.
Jon Nelson: Aquinus with James Leonard, who took over his unit. He was one of the youngest head coaches at the time when he took over at Aquinus. If the bracket falls a certain way, I think that you could see it seems like Aquinas quietness, early county out of the bottom of that bracket in AD2 make their way to the Final Four. There.
Hannah Goodin: Great answer, Jon.
Jon Nelson: There you go.
Hannah Goodin: Okay. Moving right along. So, Todd, you guys are putting together a Georgia Power 100. Ten players from each position. The best in the state. Doesn't necessarily have to be somebody on that list, but is there a player or a few players that you have your eye on that you're really excited about this season?
Todd Holcomb: Well, I mean, let's see. I think, you know, a lot of us just the usual suspects that people talk about. But I think the most interesting thing about the top players this year, just the really the number of really good quarterbacks. Which kind of runs in cycles. Although, you know, it just seems like Georgia has more of them in the last ten years. And they did, you know, ten, 20 years ago. But but you know, you got Air Noland, who's a five star going to Ohio State you know you got Juju Lewis in Carrollton that I mentioned before. He arguably is the number one recruit in the country of any class. And he's just a sophomore. And then in Savannah alone you've got, you know, Jake Merklinger, you've got Luke Cromenhoek. Cromenhoek is at Benedictine and Berklinger is at Calvary Day and they're both top ten quarterbacks in the country. And then you got all those, and then you throw in the number one recruit in the country, just happens to move in. Dylan Raiola at Buford. So I mean there's never been so many good quarterbacks like that. We got to five stars. So, you know, that's really strong.
Jon Nelson: I'll give you another quarterback real quick.
Hannah Goodin: Pop quiz!
Jon Nelson: Oh?
Hannah Goodin: Pop quiz.
Jon Nelson: Sure.
Hannah Goodin: Dylan Raiola was the keyword for the pop quiz.
Jon Nelson: Oh, it was. Yeah. Okay.
Hannah Goodin: So we got a pop quiz, so hold your quarterback.
Jon Nelson: Say the secret word, win a hundred dollars.
Hannah Goodin: That was the secret word.
Jon Nelson: To doing all of this? They really give you another quarterback, who I think in our conversation with Daren Alford down at Sly- Jay Kanazawa. In the Make That Kid An Offer category Jay Kanazawa for his senior season and that's why I think Sly's going to make another deep run of the playoffs, if not play for another state championship game. I agree with Todd in his 11.3. That Sly will be one of those 11 point threes chasing after a championship again.
Hannah Goodin: Great.
Todd Holcomb: Yeah, he was. He was really. Yeah. He was really impressive in the, in the state files in Sly. They were our number one thing last year and they didn't quite get it done because Bowden was so good but they and they'd never want to stay tall, so it would be fine if they had another opportunity. And they have two guys on our georgia Power 100. That's not the quarterback you mentioned, although he could have easily made it as well. But Jalewis Solomon and David Walker, who I believe are related. They may be step brothers, but they're both really good and both both play both ways offense and defense. And I mean, Walker's like a major- he's like a top ten national recruit, just a junior, you know. And Solomon is a really good receiver. He had over 1000 yards receiving. Then he plays defense as well. Yes. And I mean, you got to remember, too, we're talking about a little school, you know, 300 students down there were these three big name players. So like, you know, they'll probably get back to the dome or to the dome. They didn't we didn't have a dome last year, but they could be there.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Jalewis Solomon recently declared for Auburn. Right. So the boss was happy about that.
Hannah Goodin: Okay. We're going to get to our pop quiz. Since you said Dylan Raiola.
Jon Nelson: Dylan Raiola. Say the secret word, win a hundred dollars.
Hannah Goodin: So to be the number one recruit in the entire country. How rare is that? How big is that? Here's my question. So, you know, football is the most popular sport in high school. How many high schoolers play football? So you can give me a ballpark number. Think about all of the high schools across the entire country. How many players do you think? No Googling. Todd? No, no, no, no Googling. Jon.
Jon Nelson: No, no, no, no, no.
Hannah Goodin: But I have an exact number from Google. Like an exact like an exact number, which obviously it's not 100% accurate. All right. I've got a ballpark.
Jon Nelson: 21,250 times 50. I will say 1,025,000.
Hannah Goodin: Okay, Todd, what do you think?
Todd Holcomb: You used a calculator. That's not fair. Let's see.
Jon Nelson: And I'll tell you my rationale for my number when we're done.
Hannah Goodin: Yeah, well, let Todd answer, Jon.
Jon Nelson: I am.
Todd Holcomb: I'm going to say 8000. No, I'm sorry. 826,514.
Jon Nelson: 826514.
Hannah Goodin: Wow. Okay, great guess. Okay.
Jon Nelson: All right. So I said 1,025,000.
Hannah Goodin: So what's your rationale?
Jon Nelson: All right, So if you think of, say, the state of Georgia, 425 schools, average roster size of 50 because some are larger than 50, some are smaller than 50. 425 times 50 times 50 again puts it at like a million, 50,000 or something like that. And so I trimmed some and so or like a it was over a million, not quite 1,000,001. So I trimmed from there and came up with 1,025,000.
Hannah Goodin: Somehow Jon has finally gotten the pop quiz question correct.
Jon Nelson: No way.
Hannah Goodin: Yes. And there's a there's a second part to this, so hold on. Google says...
Jon Nelson: Far out.
Hannah Goodin: 1,023,908. 908, Jon. So they basically say 1,024,000. You were only a thousand off.
Jon Nelson: Wow. That's like The Price is Right qualifiers.
Hannah Goodin: My brain is exploding that you that you did that math.
Jon Nelson: Well, no, I had a calculator to do the math, but I kind of trimmed from the numbers. So that was my rationale.
Hannah Goodin: Okay. Second part of the question. So then how many players participate in college football?
Jon Nelson: Okay, so are we talking all levels or Division one?
Hannah Goodin: You know, Jon, don't overcomplicate it.
Jon Nelson: Because you're you're adding up. Division one, College, Division three NA IA. So that's four separate divisions. Sure. Of. Now, what was that? What was our number of college? High school athletes.
Hannah Goodin: Football players? 1 million. 24,000.
Jon Nelson: 1 million. 24,000.
Hannah Goodin: So how many play in college ball? I do not have the breakdown.
Jon Nelson: 365,000.
Hannah Goodin: Maybe. Maybe this isn't. Todd, what do you think?
Jon Nelson: Hannah's having us do math this week.
Todd Holcomb: Well I'm gonna get my calculator now. 30,000. No, it's got to be more than that. I can't use a calculator. I mean, there's 7000 in Georgia alone.
Jon Nelson: Yeah.
Todd Holcomb: Former Georgia player.
Jon Nelson: So if you multiply that by 50, it's 350. But not every state has the same number of schools.
Todd Holcomb: And probably not nearly as much. Really Georgia's way out there. They're probably in the top five.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Okay. So what's your number?
Hannah Goodin: So this is this is all classifications. My answer. All divisions.
Jon Nelson: All right. So what's your number Todd?
Todd Holcomb: 140,000.
Jon Nelson: And I said 325.
Hannah Goodin: Todd was way closer. Okay, Google says 96,300.
Jon Nelson: Because we should always trust the Google machine.
Hannah Goodin: It's a -it's a- it's a page of facts to back this stuff up.
Jon Nelson: A page with facts, she says.
Hannah Goodin: Not just total chaos.
Jon Nelson: Okay.
Hannah Goodin: Okay.
Jon Nelson: So 96,000.
Hannah Goodin: So you got one, right. Todd got the second one right. He was closest on the second one.
Jon Nelson: I got mine within a thousand of the largest number.
Hannah Goodin: That's crazy.
Todd Holcomb: I'll make a point. I'm going to give a I'm going to give a shout out to a guy named Steve Slay, who every year he he researches all the college rosters and determines how many are from Georgia and excuse me, around 7000 or so. So out of that, whatever, 95 or so, I mean, roughly 7% or more center from Georgia.
Jon Nelson: All right.
Hannah Goodin: So the odds of a high school player playing in college are about 9.4% or one in 11. So there's our pop quiz. Moving along.
Jon Nelson: All right. So all right. So host, what's next on your mind for Todd?
Hannah Goodin: Big storyline. So I know you're putting together a preseason all state list, Todd, but what do you guys have coming up? What are the big storylines that you are following?
Todd Holcomb: Well, I think one interesting thing this weekend is going to be the the testing of instant replay in the Cory Booker classic game Saturday in Mercedes Benz, because the Georgia High School Association in the off season decided to adopt the rule that they would use limited video review just for the championship games only. So it'll be fun to see how that goes, although it is big this weekend to get a little taste of it. And then we'll have to wait till December to see how that plays out. So that's something different. And yeah, that's that's one big thing. The other thing is I mean, people get tired of talking about Buford. I know they're probably not the most popular team in the state, but they keep making news, you know, with Dillon Raoila moving in, they were already probably going to be the number one team. So I think it's going to be really fascinating and interesting to see, you know, how they do. They're playing a team that's this week. They're opening against Saint Francis. Both teams are in the top ten nationally. So everybody will be keeping an eye on that.
Jon Nelson: She turns her head to me. So I guess it's my turn to answer. All right.
Hannah Goodin: Storylines, Jon.
Jon Nelson: Storylines. I think to Todd's point about Georgia teams playing nationally and how they fare in these national games, I mean, this weekend you've got two of the top teams ever in the history of wins in high school football in the United States. Valdosta playing Massillon at Massillon. And it was great when we had Shelton Felton on to talk about how that game came to pass and all of these interstate classics that we're having that can sit there and say, okay, well, Georgia fared well against so-and-so, didn't fare well against so-and-so. I mean, quick flights playing modern day on Labor Day weekend. Yeah, and I got to catch up with with with Mo Dixon to ask Maurice about this one. And it's like, how did this one come to pass? And it's like, Yeah, I want a challenge, I want to challenge my team. So when you got Creekside playing Mater Dei and when you got, you know, Valdosta and Massillon and when you got Buford playing where they're playing, the the South Georgia Classic that's down there, it's going to be interesting for me to see how the state of Georgia fares in these matchups that are in the non region schedule.
Hannah Goodin: Well, this was fun. This was a great preview. Jon Nelson, I'm so glad that you were here onto my podcast today. Todd, welcome, as always. We love having you on.
Jon Nelson: See this is what happens when Hannah hosts, she just takes over, puts me right into the guest spot.
Hannah Goodin: We are taking notes, so we are going to circle back on all of this come December. See who was most accurate for more golden stars.
Jon Nelson: Todd gets more gold and stars because he's got to be the most accurate in all of this. It isn't going to be me. Oh. Quick plug before you go, Todd. For those that wouldn't need to subscribe to the Georgia High School Football daily, how do they do it?
Hannah Goodin: But I would suggest finding us online. GeorgiaHighSchoolFootballDaily.com And that's the website. But remember that our newsletter is our is really our product, which you can get every morning and email where you can read all in one nice page but you can sign up for that. And one other quick thing I'll plug. Since Georgia since GPB Sports does such a outstanding job of covering the state championship games.
Jon Nelson: There you go.
Todd Holcomb: We are doing a feature that is online that is we're counting down the 100 greatest Georgia's GHSA championship games in history from 100 to number one, which will appear just before the first Olympic Games this year. I think we're on about 87 or something. And and you guys have probably seen quite a few of these games over these last few years.
Jon Nelson: As Hannah turns to the right and looks at me going, Yeah, Nelson's probably seen it.
Hannah Goodin: 75 years. Jon knows all of it.
Jon Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. After seeing all of the 75 years of covering things. Yeah, exactly.
Hannah Goodin: Jon's 75 years of coverage here at GPB Sports.
Jon Nelson: Correct. But now, Todd, thanks as always for hanging out with us here on the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. And we're going to catch up with you Remember these are set in stone, written in pen, uneraseable. When we come back in December, you'll prove once again that you are a better man than I when it comes to predictions.
Todd Holcomb: Hey, thanks for having me on. This is always a lot of fun. I need a co-host.
Hannah Goodin: Hey!
Todd Holcomb: Y'all are too fun.
Hannah Goodin: I know a few right here.
Jon Nelson: Get Chip in the door. Chip to hang out with you when you're doing this kind of thing. Yeah.
Todd Holcomb: We should do one together, you're right. I'm gonna talk him into it.
Jon Nelson: The tag team championship with Chip and Todd. And you and me. There we go.
Todd Holcomb: Yeah.
Jon Nelson: All right. Well, be good, dude. we really appreciate it.
Todd Holcomb: Hey, thanks as always.
Jon Nelson: Catch up soon. Bye.
Hannah Goodin: So thank you Jon for being on the podcast today.
Jon Nelson: Any time. It's great to be a guest on your podcast, Hannah.
Hannah Goodin: Just so insightful, so full of good information, right? We're so lucky to have you.
Jon Nelson: From the 75 years that I've covered high school football and have all the answers.
Hannah Goodin: You do have a few more gray hairs this year.
Jon Nelson: Thanks for the comment on that.
Hannah Goodin: But you don't look 75 yet. No, look, you look young for your age.
Jon Nelson: I look young for 75. Yeah. See. For those of you that are watching the video version. Yeah. For those of you watching the video version, she gets to look straight at the temples and yes, the temples are getting a little on the grey side.
Hannah Goodin: I found any gray hairs yet. I'm still looking. I'm still looking. I might have a few in there. I haven't seen any for sure.
Jon Nelson: No, she's never seen any.
Hannah Goodin: Okay, let's wrap this puppy up. Sure. Today, like you said, is the first of our weekly podcast for the rest of the season. We know everybody has just been dying to hear is weekly. I mean, I know. I mean, I get messaged daily asking why there's not more Hannah and Jon.
Jon Nelson: Oh, I thought you were just going to say that you get messaged every day sitting there going, Why there isn't more Hannah?
Hannah Goodin: You're involved in that too, Jon
Jon Nelson: As the as the guest here on the Football Friday's in Georgia podcast.
Hannah Goodin: Kidding, kidding. So that's happening. We will be having our weekly blog starting next week. Yeah I will be doing player interview zooms just like normal. The Make That Kid An Offer segment will now air at halftime everybody so join me for halftime of each Football Friday in Georgia game to see who we nominate for Make That Kid An Offer. Our very first game will be Friday September 1st. We are not doing a full season this year. We are doing most of the season, so that will begin Friday, September 1st and we will be announcing that game very, very, very soon.
Jon Nelson: So you're saying it's very soon?
Hannah Goodin: Very soon.
Jon Nelson: Okay. Very soon. For the announcement. September 1st, all the way through to the championships at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Looking forward to that and looking forward to being here on a weekly basis for the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast, where we can tour the state and let everybody know what's going on with some of the best guests and the best coaches here in the business.
Hannah Goodin: And as you know, follow us on social media at GPB Sports on all of the platforms because we are putting out all of the coach interviews that we have done. I mean, it's over seventy.
Hannah Goodin: Over 70.
Hannah Goodin: I don't have the official number yet, but we have all the high school football media days from all over the state, plus our Zoomapalooza, where we talk to 35 coaches right here on Zoom. So look for all of those on social media because there's some really funny stuff and and we dropped two bonus podcast episodes. So if you're listening to this one, look back at the last two on wherever you get your podcasts and it's all the funny stories from Zoomapalooza, right? And some of these stories are wild. Yeah. You just can't make this up. Straight from the coaches mouth. So go back and listen to the bonus episodes and I hope we can do more of those in the future.
Jon Nelson: Well, and when we also have coaches that will tell you the same story and it turns into like a Kurosawa movie and you get the different versions and they're telling you the same story. No contact between the two coaches to share the story. You're asking coaches separately and they give you the same story and you get different versions of it. Very, very cool stuff.
Hannah Goodin: All right. Well, yes. Thank you, everybody, for listening to the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast.
Jon Nelson: Okay, So who's behind the glass?
Hannah Goodin: You've got this part. Jake the Snake is in there.
Jon Nelson: Jake the Snake. Ambassador Jeremy was, King James is in there.
Hannah Goodin: King James is in there. I don't remember what you call everybody. I'm so sorry. I think that's it. I think it's just Jake and James.
Jon Nelson: Okay, so it's so Ambassador Jeremy was here, but now he's not, and it's Jake the Snake and King James. For all of them. For all of us here at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Thanks for hanging out with us for another round of the Football Fridays in Georgia podcast. We catch up with you again next week. Play it safe, everybody. We'll see you soon.