Offensive line to pave way for University Prep
After graduating a dozen seniors from a team that finished in a tie for first place in the City League’s regular season standings last year, University Prep will be breaking in plenty of young, first-time varsity players as it attempts to climb back to the top.
On offense, however, USO does have four starters returning to play a handful of important positions. So far, the team’s plan is to cater the game plan to highlight those experienced players, working to the strengths of the group.
According to coach Lou Berry, the true muscle of the offense lies in their ability to run the ball. And if the work University Prep has put in during the offseason is any indicator of what lies ahead, the eighth-year coach is feeling optimistic about what his team may be able to accomplish.
“We’re pleasantly surprised with where we’re at in this point in time. Our line play seems to be a lot more athletic. The guys are a lot stronger and they’re playing with more intensity then we played with in the last few years,” Berry said.
“We have a couple returning linemen in Corey Cottrell and Davon Brown. Davon is our center, it’ll be his second year holding the fort down for us there, and Corey is a second-year starter at offensive tackle. We moved probably our best lineman to sort of like an H-back position, and that’s Tyrese Wright.”
Moving Wright, who Berry also describes as the best defensive tackle in the City League, to fullback, should allow for USO to play more of a power-run game on offense as the Eagles break in a new starter at quarterback. While Messiah Wilkierson and Jibril Sherrill are still battling to be the starting passer, Wright said he will focus on doing what he does best -- punishing any defender that gets in his way.
“The difference now with me playing in the backfield instead of on the line is that I just get to use different parts of my body; I can build up that speed before I make contact and explode through the man,” Wright said.
“But the main difference is that now I get to hit linebackers, guys that are more my size. I’m about 5-9, 220 pounds and I was blocking guys that are closer to 300 pounds. Now, I get to go up against guys that are closer to 200 pounds, so it’s a big difference.”
The senior standout will be paving the way for another senior in fourth-year varsity player DaMon Macklin. While Macklin played slot receiver last season, he is no stranger to receiving handoffs out of the backfield.
“He’s going to transition into the backfield, and he was an all-City selection his sophomore year playing running back. He’s a very dynamic, unique playmaker with his ability to run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield,” Berry said.
“He stands at about 5-5 but plays the game like he’s 6-2. The fact that he’s a very explosive playmaker and runs really hard for his size, he has the ability to take on tackles and make people miss in space.”
The University Prep tailback had opportunities to run the ball during both his freshman and sophomore seasons due to injuries to the team’s starter. Since then, he says he’s been eyeing his senior season as his opportunity to handle a full workload.
“It’s second nature to move to running back. I got some time in ninth grade and in tenth grade when starters got hurt and I did pretty well there,” Macklin said.
“Coming into the season, I’ve been working hard because I can’t wait to get back in that spot. I’m expecting to carry the offensive load for us this season.”
Coach: Lou Berry
2107 record: 4-7, 4-1
All-time record: 46-27
Date, Opponent, Time
8.24, Farrell, 7 p.m.
8.31, Carrick*, 7 p.m.
9.7, at Westinghouse*, 7 p.m.
9.14, at Perry*, 3:30 p.m.
9.21, at Steubenville, Ohio, 7 p.m.
9.28, Allderdice*, 7 p.m.
10.4, at Brashear*, 7 p.m.
10.12, at Sharon, 7 p.m.
*City League game