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Setting the Thermostat

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By Barry Every
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225-pound two-way standout James Wood looks to lead Jeff Davis to success during his senior season.

Jeff Davis went over 15 years without sniffing a GHSA playoff appearance. In comes Coach Lance Helton who immediately created a mindset of winning ways for his band of Yellow Jackets. In his first season he broke the drought, leading Jeff Davis to the 2017 GHSA playoffs.

The following year the Jackets went two-deep in the playoffs while winning seven games for the first time since 2011. Though they missed the playoffs this Jeff Davis still managed another seven win season.

One athlete that has changed the fate of Yellow Jacket Nation is 6-foot-2, 225-pound two-way standout James Wood. As a junior the defensive end/H-Back racked up 68 tackles, 11 TFL’s and four sacks while grabbing 12 passes for 184 yards and a pair of scores. His efforts did not go unnoticed earning First Team All-Region at defensive end.

Wood will be a four-year starter.  As a freshman he played linebacker before moving to defensive end, out of necessity, as a sophomore. In his first year at defensive end he garnered First Team All-Region while being named First Team All-State tight end by the GACA.

James is one of the hardest working kids I have ever coached,” Helton said. “He’s had some bumps in the road but has proven to be so resilient and that has really impressed me. He is the thermostat of the team; He sets the temperature and the rest of the team feeds on it. That’s a lot of pressure, but he handles it and doesn’t mind being the tone setter.”

This versatile athlete is no slouch in the weight room either boasting a 390-pound bench, 430-pound squat and a 325-pound power clean. He also maintains a 3.0 GPA and has already scored a 980 on the first take of the SAT. He plans on retesting sometime in May.

“James is the most gifted two-way athlete that I have coached; he makes an impact on both sides of the ball day in and day out,” Helton said. “His work ethic has really elevated our play in Southeast Georgia and he doesn’t mind doing the dirty part of the game. He’ll simply move people out of his way when run blocking or stopping the run. He makes his presence known week in and week out – all season long.”

Though he currently awaits his first offer, Wood is receiving strong interest from The Citadel, Georgia Southern, Samford and Wofford. One school he admits to having strong interest in and would like to hear more from is Wake Forest. Most schools are recruiting Wood as a Sniffer or H-Back.

“In my opinion he is absolutely a Group of Five player, like in the Sun Belt of MAC,” Helton said. “And he is a for sure high level FCS type player with a bright future at either of these levels of ball. “I really think his recruitment will heat up soon. He is a safe recruit because he is a for sure H-Back that could also play defensive end at the next level. He is not a one-trick pony; he could play either position and be successful. James is the most versatile player I have ever coached and we pride ourselves on versatility here at Jeff Davis.”

Wood has made unofficial visits to Auburn, Georgia Southern and hopes to schedule visits to The Citadel, Samford and Wofford in the near future. He did not attend any college camps last year but recently participated in the GACA Camp in Dacula, Georgia.

Right now he plans on camping at the Kennesaw State Mega Camp with his teammates and would like to make a trip to Lexington, Kentucky to show off his skills in front of the Wildcat coaching staff.

Missing the playoffs last season was truly disappointing for Wood, but he knows this year will be different for the Yellow Jackets.

“I plan on elevating my game, life is about to get real after my senior season,” Wood said. “I need to improve my footwork and work on outside contain from my seven-technique position. I have to able to get back inside on running plays.”

Coach Helton will be relying heavily on Wood to be that senior leader that makes the plays that impact the game. But even more important he needs Wood to be that daunting spirit that raises the play of his teammates.

“I have to hold everyone accountable, including myself,” Wood said. “We have to do the little things correctly to be successful on the field. I’m not that guy that’s just going to yell; I lead by example. We must keep going hard every play and all four quarters while giving everything we have.”

GHSA Region 2-AA will be one of the most competitive in Georgia with the likes of Swainsboro (Ga.), Lyons (Ga.) Toombs County and Vidalia (Ga.) and of course the Jackets. All four of these teams finished with either eight or seven wins last season. So college recruiters looking for a two-way barbarian on the gridiron need to head to the Pinelands to see James Wood set the Thermostat!

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