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A.J. Swann enters spring practice as Cherokee's presumptive starter at quarterback after gaining his first varsity experience last year as a freshman.

Last week, Cherokee began work on building off last season’s return to the playoffs with the start of spring practices.

Many of the Warriors’ positions have yet to be decided, but coach Josh Shaw said the overall talent level he has seen on the field will bode well for the 2019 season.

“We’re really excited about the talent we have this year,” Shaw said. “Looking out at practice, we have a lot of guys who can play. We’re really excited about the depth we have this year. It’s creating competition at every position, which is what you want this time of year.”

Creating the most buzz around practice has been the three freshmen who were brought up from the junior varsity at the end of the 2018 season.

Quarterback A.J. Swann, running back Keith Adams and receiver Brandon Drummer all got their first taste of varsity experience late last year, and even more will be expected from their sophomore seasons.

“The three we had on varsity are going to be big dogs for us,” Shaw said. “A.J. Swann is going to be the dude at quarterback. Brandon Drummer is a 6-foot-3 receiver having a great few days for us. Keith Adams at running back has not disappointed. It’s exciting.”

The hope for Shaw is for the trio, along with 6-foot-5 tight end Nason Simmons, to complement the other returning skill position players. Leading receiver Devin Ellison is back, and when former quarterback Landon Ergle gets back from offseason knee surgery, Shaw said he could envision a dynamic offensive attack.

“I am beyond excited to say the least for our group,” he said. “They’re great kids to start with. They’re a pleasure to be around and coach. The kids we have can just make some plays with the ball in their hands. We’re going to get them the ball and exploit them, so I’m really, really excited at the depth and kids we have.”

Defensively, Patrick Dahlen has returned to anchor the back end. Alonzo Upshaw’s move from running back to linebacker has looked promising, and Jacobi Hobson has emerged as a force on the defensive line.

That group will face its first test in Cherokee’s spring game against Alpharetta, after which Shaw said the real individual work will begin.

“It’s just about finding the pieces to the puzzle,” he said. “We kind of work backwards. We use the summer to refine and really work on individual fundamentals. The spring for us is getting players in the right positions. We have a bundle of kids playing both ways, so we’re evaluating that schematically. After the spring game in the summer, we’ll really work on that individual stuff.”

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