Sumrall senior Ashanti Cocroft (22). Photo/Zac Chamblee

Ashanti Cocroft has got it all planned out. When his football career is over, Cocroft aims to become an engineer. Maybe there’s a correlation between the two—football and engineering. 

“Ever since I was a little kid, I just started breaking stuff left and right,” said Cocroft. “I had an urge to break stuff and put it back together.”

That “break stuff” mentality translates well to Cocroft’s position. He’s enjoying a breakout senior season for the Sumrall Bobcats this year—his first at linebacker. Cocroft played in previous years on the defensive line, but now he starts at middle linebacker for the 7-1 Bobcats. 

“One of the keys to our defense this year was having a middle linebacker,” said Sumrall coach Shannon White. “We put him [Cocroft] back there not knowing what to expect and hoping he would be good. It’s turned out that way.”

Through eight games, Cocroft is second on the team in tackles (50) and first in tackles for loss (9). That success comes for him as a first-year starter. Cocroft made one tackle as a freshman in the Bobcats’ final game of 2015. He was in the defensive line rotation as a sophomore and junior, but even that didn’t totally satisfy him. 

“When senior year came, I just said that’s enough,” said Cocroft. “It was time to pull out everything I had inside of me.”

So far, so good. 

“I felt like I was in the wrong position,” added Cocroft. “This year, when it came to linebacker, I feel like I’m in place now and feeling more confident than I was on the defensive line.”

Part of that confidence stems from Cocroft’s ability to do different things pre-snap and post. 

“With linebacker, you can read the guard more carefully and try to figure out where the ball is going,” explained Cocroft. “Once you see where the ball is going, you just snap and go.”

At six-feet and 223 pounds, Cocroft stands out measurable-wise, but that’s far from the only thing that goes into playing linebacker, according to White. 

“The key to linebacker is are you instinctive or not. I think he [Cocroft] has got some really good instincts that allow him to make plays.”

Cocroft actually says some of his best performances this year have come “without thinking”. 

“That’s what I’ve been doing. Just don’t think, and I do it.”

With the developments he’s made from junior to senior year, White believes Cocroft’s football days will exceed the high school level. The eighth-year coach says it’s been fun having a front row seat to the process. 

“He [Cocroft] is going to go out his senior year being a really good football player and feeling like everything he did was worth it.”

He’s also going out having started alongside his brother, Gabe, who plays defensive back for the team. 

“When the ball snaps, I feel like me and him [Gabe] have that connection and know where it’s going for some reason.”