Alex Nelson felt he was on the path back after injuring his shoulder during a scrimmage before the 2013 football season.
The Battery Creek High School lineman went to the doctor for a progress report.
"Then he said you're just going to sit out, because I don't want you to get hurt," Nelson said. "I went out to the car and just broke down, like this sucks."
Nelson missed his junior season with a torn labrum, but is back at full strength as the Dolphins prepare to begin the season at Bluffton High School on Friday.
Depth on the lines would be huge for Battery Creek, with the Class 2-A school often having to use players on both sides.
Nelson returns to an experienced group on the offensive line that will help gear the Dolphins' new pistol offense. Sophomore Cooper Kaminsky, who played a full season as a freshman in Nelson's absence, will play center.
The Dolphins have seniors Michael Reyes and Seth Priester back on the line and add big freshman Dizayah Hinton, who is 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds.
"We thought the offensive line was going to be a weak point going into the season, but they have matured so much as a group," coach Jim Shuman said. "They're becoming one of the strong points."
And they are there to protect senior quarterback Raekwon Smalls, who injured his knee and missed much of his junior season in 2013. Now sporting a knee brace out of precaution, Smalls will lead the Dolphins in a transition to the pistol.
The formation places the quarterback 4 yards off the line of scrimmage and a running back behind him.
Shuman said Smalls likes being off the line of scrimmage, where he's better able to see the defense. The coach said the Dolphins will still run many of the option packages they have in the past and would be under center about 25 percent of the time.
"Really we just looked at what our running backs are best at," Shuman said. "Tyrone (Dilbert) has great vision. Alterell (Chatman) is a great power runner, and the pistol seemed to be a good mesh of both of those that would allow both of them to develop their talent."
Injuries on the offensive line and at quarterback forced Shuman to shuffle at times last year without ideal personnel. Now with one of the deepest lines he has had entering his fourth season, he thinks Battery Creek should remain fresh, which will be a big key in getting through a tough non-region schedule.
"It kind of makes you work harder, too," Nelson said. "Because you know there's someone out there that can take your spot."
Follow assistant sports editor Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.
Stadium: Dolphins Stadium
Region: Region 6-AA
Coach: Jim Shuman (fourth year, 12-21)
2013 results: 5-6, lost in first round of the Class 2-A playoffs
Key losses: UTILYuneek Crittenden, DB Raheem Cooper, LB Isaiah Sloan, LB Jason Green
Key returners: RB Tyrone Dilbert, QB Raekwon Smalls, WR/DE Eric Freeman, OL Michael Reyes, OL Seth Priester, OL Cooper Kaminsky
Key newcomers: OL/DL Dizayah Hinton, RB Daquan Dilbert
THREE KEYS TO THE SEASON
Know the pistol: Coach Jim Shuman put in a lot of time studying the pistol offense in preparation for some big changes this season. He thinks the system should better fit the Dolphins' personnel, including senior quarterback Raekwon Smalls. Everyone will have the be on board.
Need some backers: The Dolphins graduated their two top tacklers in linebackers Jason Green and Isaiah Sloan, not to mention hybrid Yuneek Crittenden. Some new names will have to emerge.
Survive the gauntlet: Battery Creek's non-region schedule is a bear, thanks in part to a school district directive requiring the county's schools to play each other. The Dolphins open the season at Bluffton and later play Hilton Head Island High School and Beaufort High School in consecutive weeks before the Region 6-AA schedule begins Sept. 25.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Offense: Tyrone Dilbert, Jr., RB
Dilbert rushed for 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore. Teammates say he is bigger and faster and ready to become the team's top playmaker. Coach Jim Shuman calls him a bruiser with great vision.
Defense: Eric Freeman, Sr., DE
Questions surround a Dolphins defense that graduated its linebackers and key pieces of its secondary. Freeman will be a familiar face off the edge. He recorded eight tackles for loss and four sacks as a junior.
Aug. 30 at Estill W 20-11
Sept. 6 WHALE BRANCH W 22-0
Sept. 13 at Hilton Head High L 48-20
Sept. 20 at Garrett W 42-6
Sept. 27 RIDGELAND-HARDEEVILLE L 28-26
Oct. 4 at Bishop England L 17-0
Oct. 11 WOODLAND L 34-20
Oct. 18 NORTH CHARLESTON W 57-51
Oct. 25 BURKE W 62-0
Nov. 1 at Academic Magnet W 53-21
Nov. 8 at Wade Hampton L 57-20*
HOME GAMES IN CAPS (*playoff game)
all games at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 22 at Bluffton
Aug. 29 ESTILL
Sept. 12 HILTON HEAD HIGH
Sept. 19 BEAUFORT HIGH
Sept. 25 at Ridgeland-Hardeeville
Oct. 3 GARRETT TECH
Oct. 10 at Bishop England
Oct. 17 NORTH CHARLESTON
Oct. 24 at Academic Magnet
Oct. 31 at Whale Branch
HOME GAMES IN CAPS
2014 roster (in numerical order)
No. Name Pos. Hgt. Wgt. Class
3 Emmanuel Singleton RB/ILB 6-1 205 Jr.
4 David Frazier WR/OLB 5-10 165 Sr.
5 Jimmie Lawrence WR/DB 6-0 150 Soph.
6 Diamonte Blackshear RB/ILB 5-10 160 Soph.
7 Raekwon Smalls QB/ILB 5-6 160 Sr.
8 De'Marquis Gadsen RB/OLB 5-8 150 Jr.
9 Porter Mahan QB/OLB 5-11 150 Jr.
10 DeShaun Williams WR/DB 6-0 150 Jr.
11 Josh Burton WR/DB 5-11 150 Soph.
14 Eric Freeman TE/DE 6-5 165 Sr.
15 Christian Garcia WR/DB 5-6 140 Soph.
17 Edmond Lyerly QB/DB 5-11 140 Fr.
18 Eddie Dean RB/ILB 6-1 170 Fr.
20 Justin Cochran QB/OLB 5-9 150 Soph.
24 Alterell Chatman RB/ILB 6-0 205 Soph.
25 Daquan Dilbert RB/DB 5-6 140 Fr.
27 Matthew Holliday WR/OLB 5-9 160 Jr.
32 Robert Bowles WR/DB 5-8 140 Sr.
33 Tyrone Dilbert RB/LB 5-8 140 Jr.
34 Andrew Woodley WR/DB 6-0 165 Sr.
35 Marshall Heyward TE/DE 5-11 230 Jr.
40 Pernando Whitehead WR/OLB 5-10 150 Soph.
41 Ray Lara OL/LB 5-10 185 Jr.
43 Ahman Smalls RB/OLB/DL 5-10 160 Fr.
45 Cory Messel WR/OLB 5-10 155 Soph.
50 Matthew Caton OL/TE/ILB 5-10 190 Soph.
51 Cooper Kaminsky OL/DL 5-10 205 Soph.
54 Alex Nelson OL/DL 6-0 250 Sr.
56 Seth Priester OL/DL 6-1 275 Sr.
58 Michael Reyes OL/DL 5-7 260 Sr.
65 Zach McPeek OL/ILB 5-10 210 Jr.
68 James Polk OL/DL 5-7 220 Soph.
69 Minhnhat Dang Le OL/DL 5-8 160 Jr.
71 Brandon Robinson OL/DL 6-4 210 Sr.
72 Dizayah Hinton OL/DL 6-6 280 Fr.
76 Paul Sanchez OL/DL 6-4 275 Jr.
79 Tyler Cochran TE/DE 6-4 240 Sr.
81 Chris Kennedy WR/FS 6-2 160 Sr.
82 Deion Douglas WR/DB 5-7 140
83 Matt Hurtt OL/DL 6-3 210 Soph.
85 Jay Jenkins OL/DL 6-1 170 Sr.
99 Dylan Landry RB/ILB 5-10 150 Fr.