By Derrick Mahone
Mention Cameron Sutton's name to Jonesboro football coach Tim Floyd, and his face lights up.
The sophomore might be arguably the best all-around athlete at the school and one of the top young phenons in the county. Sutton will again play multiple roles this season for the Cardinals as they try to improve on last season's 2-8 record.
In his first year of high school athletics, Sutton became a starter in football, basketball and baseball.
"He is special," Floyd said. "Everywhere you put him, he will be successful. He works hard, and he is dedicated to the program."
Sutton's dedication showed this summer when he participated with all three sports teams in the same day on several occasions.
During one stretch, Sutton did football in the morning, basketball in the afternoon, and the sophomore still had enough juice in him to play a baseball that evening.
"As a football coach, you want him all to yourself," Floyd said. "But you realize how talented he is. He is one of those guys that does well in every sport he plays."
This season, Floyd is looking for him to play mainly at wide receiver and defensive back, but he will also take some snaps at quarterback in the Cardinals multiple offensive system. Sutton is one of four returning starters on the offensive unit.
With a year under his belt, Sutton is confident that he has made some improvements.
"It really helped me that I played as a freshman last season," Sutton said. "I learned a lot and hopefully I can correct those mistakes. I've learned that I have to prepare differently for each team we will face."
Overall, Floyd is hoping for a better year for the Jonesboro program.
Last season, Jonesboro took its lumps as Floyd used a handful of freshmen in the lineup.
The majority of the team's offensive skill players are back including running back Ryan Brown, wide receiver Shikael Valliflor and Sutton.
Experience will be the biggest area of improvement for the Cardinals, who had only five seniors last season. Floyd played 23 freshmen and 18 sophomores.
"We went into last season knowing that we were young," Floyd said. "We thought we had enough talent to win some games. We learned that we had to be patience."
But a schedule that included Valdosta and region playoff teams Mount Zion, Griffin and North Clayton was a little too much for the youth to overcome.
After starting the season with a win over Morrow, the Cardinals would drop their next five games before defeating Forest Park. However, the team would end the season on a three-game skid with losses to Griffin, North Clayton and Stockbridge after getting outscored 98-6.
Floyd expects plenty of leadership for his junior class.
"They got some on the job training last year," Floyd said. "I expect some guys to step up." Sophomore Alexjandro Bennifield and junior Cedric Nettles are battling for the starting quarterback job. Floyd said they both could get a lot of snaps this season with each also seeing some time at wide receiver.
"It has been a back and fourth battle," Floyd said. "I'm glad to see them competing. There is no clear cut winner. The competition is tight.
Whoever gets the job, will have to operate behind an inexperienced offensive line. The Cardinals only have two linemen with game experience.
The coach admits that it has been a slow process in getting the linemen to jell.
"We have worked hard to get them to come together as a group," he said. "At this point, we got some time get it together. We have to game plan with them in mind."
Defensively, the Cardinals should be solid with eight returning starters.
The majority of the secondary is back, and Floyd is also excited about the return of defensive end Quinton Edwards. Last season, the sophomore had 6.5 sacks.
"Our linebacker group concerns me some," Floyd said. "We have only one player that played last season. We got five guys that are fighting for a spot."
Despite the holes that must be filled before the first game against Tri-Cities on Aug. 27, the players are optimistic about the season.
"I think I can have a break out season," Sutton said. "As a team, we are looking to get better and hopefully get in the playoffs. We want to win a lot more games."