2008 Prep Football: North Rowan preview
By Nick Bowton
SPENCER ó North Rowan will have a new look under first-year coach Tasker Fleming, but what that look is will remain an on-going process.
The Cavaliers won’t pass the ball as much as North Rowan has the past 15 years, but they won’t abandon the pass. They’ll use receivers as receivers but also as tailbacks. And the starting lineup? That’ll probably change a few times too.
Fleming didn’t start at North Rowan until July, and he’s still adjusting to an inexperienced group that lost most of its playmakers from 2007.
“At this point, every position is still up for grabs,” Fleming said last week. “We’re gonna battle until conference, really, to establish an identity of who’s where. And why they’re there will depend on how they work.”
Fleming does know this much: Lathan Charleston returns as a flanker and will be counted on to make plays from various positions in Fleming’s multiple one-back offense. Josh Young returns and will anchor the offensive line from left tackle. Vince Shropshire returns and will lead the defense from his inside linebacker position.
Aside from that, however, the Cavs are breaking in plenty of new faces at new positions.
With its varsity starter, varsity backup and junior varsity starter all gone from last season, North will turn to sophomore Jesse Rudisell at quarterback. Rudisell played receiver last season and will be backed up by senior Daniel King.
Neither one has much experience playing quarterback ó none at the high school level ó so North will have to ease into its passing game instead of being the pass-first team it’s been since the early 1990s.
That transition could be toughest on the linemen.
“The biggest difference between this year and last year for our players is the style of play,” Fleming said. “When you are a pass-protection team, the offensive line is in a hit-recoil mode in pocket protection. We’re trying to change to attack from the front five and create some lanes for our running backs.
“Again, the ability to throw the ball with inexperienced quarterbacks, the potential is there. But I would prefer to establish the running game and pass off the play-action rather than sit back there and let people pin their ears and come after us.”
With Fleming’s offense, which he said is “a combination of wing and I” with plenty of motion, receivers and running backs are interchangeable as wingbacks.
So Charleston, North’s leading returning receiver with 35 catches for 461 yards last year, is considered a flanker but could end up in the backfield some plays. He’ll be joined at that position by freshman Daishion Barger.
As an eighth-grader last season, Barger ran track with North because he was too old to compete at the middle-school level. Now he’s competing for time on both sides of the ball at North.
“He’s a quick kid,” Fleming said. “There’s no doubt he can get to the corner if we can get the ball in his hands. He has shown in practice the ability to make people miss. He’s just explosive.
“You can tell the track skills kick in when he gets in the open field.”
Aside from Charleston and Barger, the Cavs will also have Cameron Mallett available in the backfield and both Shropshire and Jeremiah Boger at fullback. Shropshire moved to wingback in North’s first scrimmage, showing the versatility Fleming expects to see.
“It’s a mixture of six or seven guys playing three positions and trying to balance that out with the ability to run and catch,” he said.
North’s line will include Young at left tackle and a host of other players vying for time at the remaining four positions.
Jake Waddell and Travis Honeycutt are competing for time at center, Keith Reid and Garland Archie at right guard, Honeycutt, Tristan Miles and Sam Mauldin at right tackle and Emilio Locklear and Cedric Donaldson at left guard. Greg Melton and Jon Robertson could see time along the line as well.
Fleming said both Melton and Mauldin could play tight end but that North will shore up the offensive line before it worries about its tight ends catching passes.
While the offense will remain a work in progress, Fleming does know this much about his defense: “Our best 11 are gonna play defense.”
Fleming said the Cavs will rotate players offensively so defensive coordinator Rodney Goodine has the best, freshest 11 players available at any time.
Along the defensive line, sophomore Javon Hargrave returns after being one of two freshman on the varsity team last season. Dominique Meade, Eric Robinson, Archie, Reid, Mauldin, Donaldson, Locklear and Miles are other options.
Shropshire and Boger will start at linebacker and play both ways, as will Rudisell and Charleston in the secondary. Other linebackers are Melton, Titus King and Darius Jackson, and Mallett and Trey Rivers should join Rudisell and Charleston in the secondary. Barger could end up playing safety as well.
Fleming said he’d rather not have guys playing both ways, but he might not have a choice.
“It wouldn’t be ideal for anybody’s quarterback to go both ways,” said Fleming, who’s looking at Reid and soccer player Thomas Baker at kicker and Rudisell and Daniel King at punter. “It’s not ideal for your inside linebackers to go both ways. It’s just a situation where we’ll have to be careful as coaches how we rotate to keep the offense fresh for the defense.
“I’m not really sure at this point how many will be going both ways. But the potential’s there for a few to stay on the field more than I would like them to.”