Catawba Preview: The offense

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 30, 2011

By Mike London
SALISBURY — Catawba is tackling a scalding schedule that includes Coastal Carolina and UNC Pembroke, but coach Chip Hester may have the horses and hogs to top last season’s 6-4 mark.
Offensively, the Indians are trusting in a new quarterback, but there’s every reason to believe Illinois transfer Jacob Charest, a junior who resembled Dan Marino in the Spring Game, will be outstanding.
Hester also has all kinds of faith in senior running back Josh Wright, who ranked eighth in the SAC with 687 rushing yards a year ago.
“Josh is our guy,” Hester said. “He’s an all-round player who had a lot of catches (27) as well as the rushing yards. Josh is lighter and faster. We have high hopes.”
Examining the statistics from 2010, Catawba has two offensive dimensions where it has a lot of room to improve.
The Indians ranked seventh in the SAC in rushing and dead-last in the eight-team league in scoring efficiency in the red zone. Catawba came up empty on three of every 10 visits inside the 20 in 2010.
“You have to ask yourself what’s your identity?” Hester said. “Tusculum is going to throw it. Carson-Newman is going to run it. We want to do both. We need to run the ball well in order to be the football team we want to be.”
Wright won’t have to shoulder the entire rushing load.
Bobby Morrison, a Shrine Bowler in 2007, has struggled to stay in one piece since he signed, but he’s healthy now. If he stays intact, he’s a big piece of the puzzle.
Omar Craig and freshman Jacorian Brown (Carson) provide depth.
After starring at Matthews Butler High, where he threw 73 TD passes, the 6-foot-4 Charest was ranked by scouting services in 2007 as the No. 2 prep QB in the South.
A redshirt in 2008, he played in four games for Illinois in 2009. He was 14-for-27 against Northwestern for 145 yards and 10-for-19 against Minnesota for 185 and had a TD pass in each game.
Charest’s parents are Davie County natives, and Jacob materialized at Catawba last year, in part to play with his brother, Nate, who projects as a standout receiver.
“We’re confident Jacob can lead the offense,” Hester said. “He had a good spring, and the guys are excited about what he brings. He’s an athlete. He was a high school wrestler.”
Behind Charest are Tyler Gilmore (A.L. Brown), Richard Shuping and B.J. Sherrill (West Rowan). Unless Charest gets hurt, the plan is for Sherrill to redshirt. He’s the future. Hester says he’s learning every day.
The guys catching the ball will be new except for Nate, who steps into Brandon Bunn’s huge cleats in the slot, and senior captain Eric Morman, who has 84 career catches and is sneaking up on 1,000 career yards.
“We’ve got young receivers, but we get to work against great DBs in practice,” Morman said. “We take that as an advantage.”
Levon Curtis, a talented guy who redshirted in 2010, will be important. True freshman stud Joe Watson (Davie) could figure in, along with returning backups Peyton McCollum and Jared Crabtree and freshmen Trey Mashore (West Rowan) and Mark McDaniel (South Rowan).
Catawba has an army of hopefuls at H-back (a combo tight end/fullback), including former QB Chance Green. Vincent Beam could start, and freshman Tyler Hamilton is an exciting athlete.
Catawba’s offensive line is a work in progress, although it has building blocks in senior center Daylon McAlexander and 295-pound junior right tackle Ethan Winn.
Alan Parsons, a transfer from Coastal Carolina, will start at left tackle.
“He’s an energy guy,” Morman said. “He and McAlexander are like Bash Brothers. Everyone picks up on it.”
Top candidates at guard are Taylor Fender, Kevin Alphonso and Corey Raven.
“We’ve only got one senior lineman who’s played a lot of football,” Hester said. “But we’re pretty deep, with eight or nine that can play.”