Cunningham could fare better on both sides of the ball in 2013, thanks in part to a change in SC's defensive philosophy. The Black Eagles have abandoned the odd-stack defense in favor of an over-under basic 40.
"Basically, the biggest difference is going from three down to four down," Mays said. "It makes a huge difference in the running game."
It means that Cunningham's path to opposing running backs won't typically be as clogged.
"I won't have as many big guys on top of me getting straight to me now, so hopefully I can maneuver a little better on defense," he said.
But Cunningham, who said he doesn't want his junior season to be seen as a comeback, is more interested in carrying the ball than tackling ball carriers.
"Running back," he said when pressed for an answer for his preference. "I just like it better.
"I don't really like to say that, though, because they need me to go both ways, and whatever they need me to do, that's what I'm going to do."
Mays isn't the only one who tries to convince Cunningham of his value at linebacker.
"Actually, he doesn't really like it. He's like, 'I don't really care to play defense,' but whenever you watch film he's all over the place and he's making tackles," Mays said. "His dad and myself, we've told him, 'A.D., if you're going to play college football at the highest level it's probably going to be on the defensive side of the ball.'"
Cunningham's dad knows his subject matter well. He's Will King, a 1989 All-State defensive back for Capital in its inaugural season and later the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year while as a Marshall linebacker in 1993.
South Charleston, which earned the No. 7 ranking in the Daily Mail Preseason Class AAA poll, opens the regular season against No. 8 George Washington on the road Thursday, Aug. 29.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at derek.tay...@dailymail.com or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT.