All-state running back leaves big shoes to fill

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2016

HOGANSVILLE – It’s no small feat to replace a man who was one of the best running backs in the state last season.

As the Callaway Cavaliers marched to a 10-2 record last fall, senior running back Cedric Maynard ran roughshod over the opposition.

By the time the season came to a close in the second round of the state playoffs, Maynard was just a few yards shy of becoming one of a handful of running backs in state history to amass more than 2,500 yards.

It was nonetheless a spectacular season for Maynard, who earned numerous postseason honors before signing with Tennessee State University.

While Maynard will obviously be missed, running backs coach Matt Neighbors is confident the Cavaliers will continue to be a prolific running team without him.

Neighbors said there are a handful of talented running backs who’ll get their hands on the ball this season, and that includes DJ Atkins, a junior who is preparing for his first season as a Callaway football player after transferring from Spencer.

Neighbors, who is in his first season on the Callaway staff after coaching at LaGrange last season, said at the moment the plan is for Atkins to “get the bulk of the carries, probably 85, 90 percent.”

Atkins played at Spencer as a freshman and was a starter on the defensive side of the ball, and he didn’t play last season.

“He’s a football player,” Neighbors said. “We’re excited about him. He’s working hard this summer.”

Atkins made a debut of sorts during the spring game in May when he ripped off a bunch of long runs, including one that went for a touchdown.

“Replacing Cedric’s a huge deal,” Callaway offensive coordinator Matt Napier said following the spring game. “But DJ made a lot of really good plays at running back. I was proud of how he played.”

Another running back who’ll likely get his share of carries this season is sophomore Qua Hines, who like Atkins had some explosive runs during the spring game.

Hines had a touchdown run, and he also showed off his toughness when he carried some defenders for a 20-yard run on third-and-long.

“He showed me a lot of good stuff in the spring, and he’s looked good all throughout the summer,” Neighbors said.

Senior Dominique Copeland will also be a part of the running-back rotation, although he’ll spend a lot of time on defense as a starter at cornerback.

“He’s got crazy speed,” Neighbors said. “He’s an athlete.”

Another player who Neighbors believes could make a major impact this season is Cartavious Bigsby, who is part of a talented freshman class.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports

DJ Atkins will be a key part of Callaway High’s running attack this season. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News Atkins will be a key part of Callaway High’s running attack this season. Kevin Eckleberry | Daily News

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