One of the few veterans along the offensive line, Sharp displayed the talent that got him several scholarship offers before he committed to Auburn. Zuniga, who is mulling over as many as 10 scholarship offers, offered the perfect complement to Bailey as the linemen enter their final season looking to improve on the Yellow Jackets’ 2-8 record from a year ago.
“Iron sharpens iron when it comes to those two,” Shackelford said. “Jabari is a real good-looking and physical kid, and he and Bailey bring out the best in each other. Bailey is one of the best offensive tackles in Georgia, in my opinion, and it was good to see those guys go after it.”
While Sharp and Zuniga anchor their respective sides of the ball, more players will have to step over the course of the season for Sprayberry to have success. The Yellow Jackets’ scrimmage gave Shackelford a glimpse of what to expect going into summer workouts and practices heading into next season.
“Overall, I was pleased with what I saw,” he said. “I felt the defense was ahead of the offense in the Black and Gold scrimmage game, and as the head coach, I was excited to have found that the defense was very physical. They laid out some good hits and that got some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the crowd. That’s the kind of effort I want to see with the defense flying around getting to ball.
“Offensively, we need to get the timing down with the quarterback and wide receivers, but, overall, I was pretty pleased. We need to build some depth on our offensive and defensive lines, because we’re pretty young there.”
Andrew Pierra took most of the snaps under center as the returning quarterback.
“Andrew started three to four games for us last year, so he’s the first guy we looked to at that position,” Shackelford said. “But there’s competition at every position every day, so you’ll have to perform well to keep that spot, and Andrew knows that. He’s doing a good job taking on a leadership role. He’s a coachable kid that likes to compete, and that’s what you want to see.”
Rakeem Myricks, an all-region selection last season, returns at running back, where Trey Sermon also is in the mix.
“I’m expecting big things from Rakeem, who I think could be one of the best running backs in the county,” Shackelford said. “Trey is an up-and-coming 6-foot, 185-pound kid with some pop. Those guys will be work horses for us.”
The Yellow Jackets have an abundance of talent at wide receiver with Dre Miller, Jontae Williams, Jon Palmer, Nygel Green and Shawn Kemp returning.
“All these guys played for us last year, so we have some depth there,” Shackelford said. “It was good to see that chemistry start to develop with these guys.”
Center Mark Hatch started some games last year, so he and Sharp will be surrounded by some new faces on the offensive line.
“We’re going to need some guys to step up and fill some of those spots,” Shackelford said. “We’re working on our strength and conditioning this summer with coach (Julian) Hicks, and I think that’s been helpful. We’re getting, bigger, stronger, faster, and you can see the gains we’re making.”
Likely joining Zuniga on the defensive line are Hayden Langston and Jason Simmons, while linebackers Brailon Woods, Brandon Felix, Tameron King, Josh Bailey, Kai Weaver and Kadeem Brathwaite should also see some action.
The secondary will likely see Bryan Williams, DeCedre Ward, Corey Atkins, Zaire Wolfrey and Xavier Guido in the mix.
“The defensive secondary really go after us in the scrimmage,” Shackelford said. “Bryan Williams and Dre Miller did a nice job going after each other.”
Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship is also back for his final season.
“He’s worth three to four players to us,” Shackelford said. “He does all of the kicking, and what he brings to the field position battle helps us out a lot.
“Overall, I thought there was a great energy in the spring. This team is destined to be good.”