The impact of Caleb King's transfer from Parkview to Greater Atlanta Christian is undeniable at both schools, but the general consensus among local coaches is that it will be felt more at his new school than his former one.
King's long-rumored switch of schools was finally made official on Tuesday, instantly pushing the Spartans to the forefront in discussions on Class AA's top state-title contenders. The loss of the nation's No. 1-ranked prep running back certainly hurts the Panthers, but it doesn't dampen any expectations for a AAAAA program that has made an impressive 11 straight quarterfinal appearances.
"Obviously you've got a situation where you've got an outstanding football player, but you've got a (Parkview) program that is bigger than any one player," Brookwood head coach Mark Crews said of his rival school. "I'm sure they'll be fine without him. By the same token, they would be better if they had him back for his senior season. But they certainly aren't going to be crippled without him.
"Honestly, a great player like Caleb can make a difference at (the AA) level. Terry Harvey at Dacula, he took them from being an average to above average team year in and year out to a championship team his two or three seasons there.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is that a great player at that level can make a much greater impact than a player on (the AAAAA) level."
King ran against some of the state's best AAAAA defenses as a Parkview junior, tallying 2,765 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. He also holds scholarship offers from most of the nation's top football powers, and adding a player of that caliber to a senior-laden Spartan team seems to be a good combination.
GAC returns a college prospect at quarterback in Lee Chapple and also has a strong line led by Division I prospect T-Bob Hebert. The line also got a transfer boost in the offseason with the addition of former Brookwood lineman Nick Biggee.
"I would say GAC ought to win it all (with King)," Berkmar coach Wendell Early said. "They're a good team anyway and then you add (King) in there. In my opinion, they should win the whole thing. Put it this way, Caleb King added to anybody's roster makes them a heck of a lot better team."
"(GAC head) Coach (Jimmy) Chupp told me last spring that this is one of the best teams he's coached," Buford head coach Jess Simpson said. "I'm sure adding another piece like (King) is exciting for them."
GAC has made 11 straight playoff appearances, but eight of those seasons have ended in first- or second-round losses. The Spartans finished as the state runner-up in 2002, made the state semifinals in 1998 and made the quarterfinals in 2003.
With news of the transfer just becoming official, Chupp said talk about region and state titles hasn't entered his mind.
"I really haven't thought about that," Chupp said. "People have been saying a lot of things about that but it really wasn't in the equation for me and it still isn't. There's so many other things to be done before you get down to that."
While King's departure affects Parkview, it doesn't ratchet down the expectations at the perennial power, which has grown accustomed to success. The Panthers have won four state titles, most recently in 2002.
They will use a running back by committee approach to replace King, with Antonio Mohn leading a pack that also includes Tremayne Graham, Kenny Bellevance, Brandon Jacobs, Brandon Evans and Bryce Rosser. In the past, some of Parkview's better teams have featured backs that shared time, rather than one feature back.
"We have to just move on," Parkview head coach Cecil Flowe said. "We don't forget about Caleb. You don't forget about a kid like Caleb. At the same time, there's no looking back. If you look too far that way, you can't see where you're going. So we've just got to see where we're going. We'll be fine."