The latest magazine to get into the act is the High School Football 2014 Preview from Athlon Sports, one of the premier publishers in the country when it comes to preseason publications, and like most other media outlets, they are bullish on McEachern.
The Indians are the highest ranked team from Georgia in Athlon’s national top-25, coming in at 13th. The only other school from the state to make the poll is Buford, which comes in four spots later. With the team preview, the magazine highlights three players — running back and Oregon commitment Taj Griffin, offensive tackle and USC commitment Chuma Edoga and rising sophomore quarterback Bailey Hockman, who was just named a preseason All-American by CBS Maxpreps. But these three are only the beginning of the list of players the magazine recognizes.
“It’s nice to have respect,” McEachern coach Kyle Hockman said. “It’s an honor to represent Powder Springs and McEachern. We have good players, but now we have to get them to understand they have an opportunity (to do something special), and get them to take advantage of those opportunities.”
What is nice about the Athlon magazine is it breaks the state previews into four tiers, and in those states where high school football is played at its highest level, their previews are more in depth. That is definitely the case with Georgia, where the writers chose a first, second and third team regardless of classification. Of the 66 players selected, 10 are from Cobb County.
North Cobb quarterback Tyler Queen, the 2012 Class AAAAAA first-team all-state honoree and Auburn commitment, gets the nod. He is joined on the offensive line by Edoga, and Cobb gets a pair of special team selections in Marietta’s Ian Shannon at punter and Griffin at punt returner.
For Queen, who was the Class AAAAAA first-team all-state quarterback in 2012, he was happy people are remembering him.
“That’s pretty cool,” he said about being chosen first-team quarterback. “A lot of times, when you commit early, people start to forget about you.”
Queen also said he can’t afford to read too much into it.
“You appreciate it,” he said. “But everything that is written goes to fuel the hype, and I try not to get caught up in all the hype.”
Cobb also gets the quarterback on the second team. Harrison’s Lorenzo Nunez was selected to lead the offense, McEachern junior Julian Rochester leads the second-team defensive line and Sprayberry’s Rodrigo Blankenship is the punter.
Another three players dot the third team. Allatoona running back Josh Bettistea, after his 1,900 yard season a year ago, offensive lineman and Auburn commitment Bailey Sharp, and McEachern wide receiver and Duke commitment T.J. Rahming is the punt returner.
A third portion of the magazine is dedicated to recruiting. Athlon has a working agreement with 247 Sports, which offered the top 247 players in the country for the Class of 2015. Edoga leads at trio of players on the list at No. 15, Griffin came in at No. 49 and Nunez at No. 228.
Cobb also placed seven players in 247s top 100 players in the state. Edoga was third, Griffin seventh and Nunez comes in at No. 21. Queen is 28th, Sharp 36th along with Wheeler wide receiver Harland Howell, a Georgia Tech commitment at No. 70 and McEachern offensive lineman Chandler Jones, who is heading to Louisville, at No. 79.
In all, McEachern had six players highlighted in the magazine and Athlon considers it by far the best team in the state. Considering everything, Kyle Hockman said the target on the Indians back may be bigger than normal.
“For anyone that reads those things it is,” he said.
John Bednarowski is the sports editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jbednarowski.