2008 Catawba Football: The offense
By Mike London
In a century of football, Catawba had never put up offensive numbers as it did last season when it erupted for 44.5 points a game.
Think about it. That’s six TDs, six PATs and a field goal every Saturday. That will get it done most of the time. Catawba was 11-2 in 2007, and in the two games it lost, it didn’t get stopped, it just got outscored.
Catawba enters a new season realistic but optimistic about an offensive unit which subtracts record-setting quarterback Brad Roach, receiver Brent Johnson, running back Kory Fisher and tight end Shane Timmons.
‘We didn’t lose quantity, but we lost quality,” Catawba coach Chip Hester said.
Catawba also recently learned running back George “Duke” Bell may miss the season with a thyroid condition. Hester said Bell is responding well to medication, but his status is doubtful.
Taking away Bell means taking away a school-record 20 touchdowns, 715 rushing yards and an immense presence. Lots of teams didn’t just respect the Virginia Tech transfer ó they feared him.
Obviously, Catawba doesn’t win its landmark game at Carson-Newman last season without a monumental effort by Bell, and he would have provided a fine security blanket for new quarterback Howard Williamson this year.
Williamson, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, won the spring and summer quarterback competition with Patrick Dennis and Daniel Griffith, and the good news for Catawba fans is he earned the job. It wasn’t presented to the junior by default.
Dennis enters the season as the No. 2 man and will get opportunities. Griffith, who starred at North Rowan, is feeling good after weathering some physical setbacks.
“Daniel’s healthy and learning,” Hester said.
Senior speedster Jamelle Cuthbertson finally gets his chance to be the workhorse back. He rushed for 646 yards last season as the third guy in a devastating trio that included Fisher and Bell. He’ll break some long ones.
“Jamelle is a home-run hitter,” Hester said.
Behind “Cutty” is veteran Antonio Hall, whom Hester called one of the “bright spots” in camp, and true freshman Princeton Brooks.
Another touted true freshman, Bobby Morrison, is sidelined for now with a small fracture in a foot, so Catawba’s gone from ridiculously deep at tailback to a little thin in a matter of weeks.
The top fullbacks are Erik Smith and Adawi Revels. Both are physical blockers.
Strong (95 career catches, 1,392 yards, eight TDs) heads the receivers.
Explosive Travis Landrum has been a star-in-waiting for two years. He had 11 catches and two TDs in 2007.
Brandon Bunn (18 catches, three TDs) will play an expanded role, and Brian Terwilliger’s speed makes him a factor.
Gerron Bryant, who has recovered from an ACL injury, former East Rowan wideout Jamey Small and Eric Morman, whose brother, Charles, was a fine DB a few years ago, are also in the mix.
The best hope for a future impact wideout is true freshman Ronnie Williams, a 6-foot-3 physical specimen.
Replacing the underrated Timmons at tight end will be Grayson Downs and Lavar Marsh, who has great athletic ability for a 275-pounder. Recruits Holt Rains and Marquell Reddick are future studs.
The offensive line should be terrific and will help Catawba break in its new skill-position players comfortably.
“That line is a big, big strength for us, and that’s an important place to start for any football team,” Hester said. “We’ve got some guys, with their athletic ability, who have a chance to be some of the best we’ve ever had here.”
Left tackle Terence Crosby is as good a football player as the Indians have and was a first-team All-SAC pick as a sophomore. He’s a horse.
Hunter Carnes, who has been sporting a bright red Mohawk, is right behind him and will likely man the right tackle spot this year. He played mostly left guard last year.
Right guard Kevin “Hammer” Hamaker, a two-year starter, played through a bad ankle last season. If he stays healthy, he can join Crosby and Carnes as a candidate for postseason accolades.
Big redhead Zane Gibson established himself as the starting center as a redshirt freshman and started every game last season.
Kemp McSween won a starting tackle job as a redshirt freshman last season and is penciled in to open at left guard this year.
It’s a burly bunch, all of them 6-3 or 6-4 and all of them in the 300-pound range. Best of all, none are seniors, so Catawba may have a dominating O-line this year and next.
Reserves include Daylon McAlexander, Cody Corn, Chris Williams and Roy Carter Jr.Freshman Thomas Trexler has won the kicking job, and D.J. Gill, who kicked four field goals in 2006, is available.
Philip Russ is the No. 1 long snapper on the depth chart, with Chad Case behind him.