For prospective Owls in tryouts, the goal is the same
by John Bednarowski
jbednarowski@cherokeetribune.com
March 23, 2014 04:06 AM | 4358 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon and player Dez Billingslea, who has already signed with the Owls, watch as former Sequoyah player Spencer Zorzi runs and agility drill Saturday morning.
<Br>Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
Kennesaw State coach Brian Bohannon and player Dez Billingslea, who has already signed with the Owls, watch as former Sequoyah player Spencer Zorzi runs and agility drill Saturday morning.
Staff photo by Kelly J. Huff
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KENNESAW — After more than a year on the sidelines, Kennesaw State football coach Brian Bohannon finally got to do the one thing he’s been waiting to do.

He finally got to coach some football.

Approximately 85 prospective players attended the Owls’ tryout session Saturday at the KSU Sports and Recreation Park, with the hopes of becoming part of the inaugural team in 2015.

Bohannon and his staff put the prospects through the wringer, making them run the 40-yard dash and perform a pro agility test before breaking into offensive and defensive groups to run position-specific drills.

By the end of the morning, Bohannon was pleased with what he saw.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” he said, “but I was really surprised by the athleticism. You could tell, by the way they moved around, they meant business.”

Bohannon was also pleased with how the staff performed in its first taste of on-field work.

“This is why I’m in the profession,” Bohannon said. “It was great to see (the staff) coach together for the first time. We haven’t coached in about a year.”

Of the 29 players in Kennesaw State’s first signing class, only six were from the counties Bohannon designated as Kennesaw State’s core — Cobb, Cherokee and Paulding. Nearly 40 percent of Saturday’s participants were from the three-county area, including a pool of 22 from Cobb County that represented 12 different high schools.

“That’s big for us,” Bohannon said. “This is a really good-looking group of kids. That tells you how important this institution is to Cobb and the surrounding counties.”

Bohannon said players who will be asked back for fall practice will find out by email Monday. While he did not say how many may earn a return invitation, it was obvious there were some players whose performances garnered attention.

After graduating from Kell in 2010, former Class AAAA all-State center Brett Gillespie attended North Greenville University in South Carolina. But after one redshirt season, and another on the active roster, Gillespie decided he wanted to come home and be part of the first team at KSU.

“I’ve been training ever since I left North Greenville,” he said. “From that summer until now, I went to work.”

Weighing in at 290 pounds, the sports management major made his presence known, starting with the agility drill.

The drill was set up with three lines spaced 5 yards apart. The idea was to start in the middle, work 5 yards to one side and touch the line, reverse field, go 10 yards, touch another line and then return to the middle.

Gillespie did it in a smooth 4.7 seconds.

“I think I had a good workout,” he said. “There are some things I need to work on, but the agility drill — yeah, I’m pretty good at that.”

Brian Jordan, a former two-sport professional in the NFL and Major League Baseball, attended the tryouts and said he was impressed with not only Gillespie, but the overall level of talent on hand. He said there were a couple other players that really stood out.

“I think (Ryan) Godhigh is, far and beyond, the best talent I’ve seen out here,” said Jordan, now a TV analyst.

Godhigh, the younger brother of former Georgia Tech running back Robbie Godhigh, spent one season at Jacksonville State as a walk-on running back, but the experience wasn’t what the former Harrison Hoya wanted it to be.

When Godhigh heard Kennesaw State was going to begin its football program, the public relations and broadcasting major said he knew he wanted to come back to Kennesaw.

“I really wanted to come back home and play for my hometown team,” he said.

Another player Jordan was impressed by was former Walton receiver and linebacker Zachary Ridlehuber.

Ridlehuber played outside linebacker last season on Reinhardt University’s inaugural team, but he joined the team late and was offered only a partial scholarship. Looking at the cost it would take to remain at Reinhardt, in addition to the opportunity to play at a higher level that Kennesaw State would present, it was too much for Ridlehuber to pass up.

“I thought I did well,” he said. “I loved playing at Reinhardt and being part of its first team, but it’s such an expensive private school. I knew (Kennesaw State) was going to have a football program for a while, and I think it would be great to be a part of that first team.”

Ridlehuber, who is studying education with the goal of becoming a physical education teacher and coach, may have the best football genes of anyone trying out.

His father, Preston Ridlehuber, was the quarterback on Vince Dooley’s first teams at Georgia from 1964-65. After playing for Dooley, chair of Kennesaw State’s football exploratory committee, the elder Ridlehuber went on to play three seasons in the NFL, including one with the Atlanta Falcons during their inaugural season of 1966.
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