FITZGERALD, GA (WALB) - It's hard not to pencil Fitzgerald football back into the state championship game for a third straight year.
Rookie head coach Tucker Pruitt knows the expectations are high, but he's not concerned with the chatter.
Don't compare Tucker Pruitt to his father Robby, the winningest coach (120) in Fitzgerald history.
Don't compare Tucker Pruitt to Jason Strickland, his predecessor who in the past two seasons came a win short of the school's first title since 1948.
First year head coach Tucker Pruitt is his own man, and the 2017 Purple Hurricane is its own team.
"We've got some guys that have been there before," said Pruitt. "but my opinion on that is each year is its own year."
Quarterback James Graham is one of nine returning starters. He's a speedster with a cannon for an arm who led Fitzgerald to over 42 points per game last year.
Since Pruitt's arrival, he and the senior QB have met two mornings per week working on mechanics and studying the new offense that fits Graham like a glove.
"He likes to spread the field, so I will throw more and run a lot," said Graham who holds offers from 18 Division I schools.
Pruitt is introducing more run-pass options for what was already the most potent offense in south Georgia.
"New offense, new defense. We're not where we need to be but we are getting better each and every day," said Pruitt. "And I'm very pleased with the effort and the attendance this summer."
"We went back to a 2-backer middle," said senior linebacker Donterious Milsap. "We (ran) a 3-backer last year, but I think the 2-backer is a lot easier and we ran that my freshman year."
And as for gaining the respect of his players. There's nothing to it, for Pruitt, who is a former Purple Hurricane himself.
"He's been here," reminded Milsap. "He knows what Fitzgerald is all about and how we run ourselves around here."
"(Pruitt is a) Tough guy," said Graham. "He pushes me a lot. He fusses at me a lot, but I like it because I get a little better and sometimes I get a little mad, and I get real great when I'm mad."
The Purple hurricane open the season at Hapeville Charter August 18th.
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