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October 25, 2011

Tri-Cities winning the trenches

EAST POINT, Ga. - On Friday night, Tri-Cities hosted its last home game of the regular season as they took on Banneker in the Doghouse under close watch of Georgia secondary coach Scott Lakatos. Under a recruiting lens, that game was about an uncommitted Peach State top target, Chaz Elder, and where he will end up come February. Or perhaps it was even about Tri-Cities' junior offensive line standout Shamire Devine, an early Georgia offer, who was under the same scrutiny from the Georgia coach scouting from the end zone.

But it seems that for all the talk about recruiting and colleges, rankings and stars, who will go where and what they will do, often the focus of story is so forward-looking that present circumstances are overlooked.

To the 22 players on the field on any given play, including the big name recruits, that game, that day, was simply about getting the win, as each team fought for its place in the post-season.

The Bulldogs overpowered the Trojans from the line of scrimmage on outward, muscling their way to a 35-7 win and securing a playoff berth. One of the driving forces behind the offensive line's dominating performance was 6-foot-4, 335-pound junior, Jeremi Hall. Excited with a playoff golden ticket, he said he was impressed with his team's ability to execute a new system-a system favored by most offensive linemen.

"I liked it. We had, we did a new scheme when we played them, and I liked it because we did a lot of running, we don't usually do too much running," Hall said. "But we put in a new scheme and it's going pretty good so I think we are going to do pretty good in the playoffs."

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Devine, who almost manages to dwarf the rest of Tri-Cities' impressively built line, wasn't particularly interested in how things got done, just so long as it resulted in progress.

"I don't care what we do, so long as the ball moves up the field," Devine said.

The junior tackle went on to explain why his team is able to make running the ball look so easy.

"What we do is, we work out a lot too. Before school, we go to the weight room, then during school we have general weight training, then after school, right before practice, we lift some more weights," Devine said. "Just all the time, we are lifting weights."

Junior defensive tackle Marcus Adams, who recorded a few sacks and a couple of tackles in the contest, added to Devine's sentiment about putting in the time. Adams explained that even outside of lifting and football, the Tri-Cities team is always together.

The trio said that while they often talk about recruiting and different programs, they enjoy each other's company as more than teammates, but as what they call "family."

Even after the long hours spent in the weight room and on the practice field during the week, the Bulldogs still want to be together as team regularly.

"Usually, on Sundays, we all go to church together, or we'll all just chill together. We'll all come together, like on the Sunday to watch film together," Hall said. "We just do stuff as a team together a lot, like go bowling."

Tri-Cities coach Kenneth Miller has managed to instill a sense of family and normalcy often denied of top high school football players, while still developing FBS talent. As a result, his players said they are looking for that at the next level, something Hall said he hopes they can continue to do together.

"I can play with them when I go to college, I mean, like, I can play with them anywhere really. We are really close to each other. We know how each other do stuff and, like, if we wind up in front of each other on something, we know 'oh, you got them by yourself,'" Hall said. "Even if we got a combo block or something like that, we just communicated a lot on the line together. We always want to all go to the same school so we can just dominate all around."

The possibility of ending up together isn't too far-fetched. The trio attended Mark Richt's 7-on-7 OL/DL minicamp in June, went to the Georgia Tech-Maryland game together, and all have interest from many of the same programs.

Devine, who is the only one on Tri-Cities that currently holds a Georgia offer, said that while Georgia Tech, Florida, and Alabama are all currently recruiting him the hardest, his current top-five list, in no particular order, is Georgia, Georgia Tech, Oregon, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss.

He said that in the last two-and-a-half weeks, Georgia has been coming on a lot stronger, sending hand-written notes to his home.

Adams currently holds offers from Middle Tennessee and TCU, but said Georgia would be his dream offer since it is the hometown program. Although he said is getting some interest from UGA, after getting to work with coach Rodney Garner in the spring, Adams said he'd love to have more opportunities with the Georgia defensive line coach.

"He's a cool dude. He's got a good personality really, he keeps it real," Adams said. "He told me I need to work on my get-offs, like, getting off the ball. I just like him."

Hall has offers from Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech and Kentucky, and said he has been getting a lot of mail from everywhere.

Hall said he hasn't heard much from the Georgia coach staff, but after camping at UGA in the spring, he said he felt the sense of family he has with his East Point Bulldogs was similar to that of the Athens Bulldogs.

"What I like is just the coaching, and the team is almost just like a family. That's how I see it, and I kinda like that a lot, a team that hangs out together and does everything together," Hall said. "That's what I like to see in a team."

The three linemen said will be at the Georgia-Georgia Tech game over Thanksgiving weekend, but with their senior seasons still just less than a year away, they said they all are just enjoying their experiences and taking things as they come.

And when all is said and done, each prospect will forge his own path, but each will have done it while looking around with their Bulldog family rather than staring into the future alone.

Follow emilynerland on Twitter



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