Hinson takes over and Salisbury ‘will be better’ this season

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2017

By David Shaw

sports@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Anyone can steer a ship on a clear day, but new Salisbury coach Brian Hinson has been asked to navigate his team through troubled waters.

It won’t be easy.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Hinson, a Catawba legend from 1996-99, who worked his magic as East Rowan’s head coach a few years ago. “There are concerns and apprehensions, but everything has a place. Salisbury has some athletes that I think we can win with. Everyone likes to throw around the word ‘potential,’ but that doesn’t mean we’re good. It means we can be.”

Hinson and his revamped staff have put consecutive sub-par finishes in mothballs, instead focusing on restoring SHS to contender status. If the approaching season was a stakes race, Salisbury would be a long shot looking to move up in class.

“We’re trying to put it together,” he said. “This team has to learn how to win first. We’ve got work to do.”

Salisbury does return 10 starters from a team that went 3-8 overall and 2-3 in the Central Carolina Conference a year ago. Only one — senior left guard Rondarius Peele (6-0, 295) — is an offensive lineman.

“He’s someone who can bring the power,” Hinson said. “But the rest of the line is pretty raw. I don’t know how much coaching they’ve had. Our lineman have to be more dedicated in the weight room and we have to coach them through that. It’s something that has to change.”

Left tackle Brandon Lingard (6-5, 235) has an imposing body and right tackle Henry Holman (5-11, 210) saw time as a left guard last year. Both offer promise. Center Carter Jenkins (5-10, 230) and jayvee graduate Will Setzer (5-10, 235) only need seasoning.

Better things are expected from quarterback Griffin Myers, the senior who passed for 485 yards and four touchdowns in 2016, but also threw nine interceptions.

“I watched him on film and he always did a good job reading the option,” said Hinson. “In practice, he’s the ultimate competitor, tries to win every drill. You’ve only got to tell him something one time.”

Myers’ most-feared target will be Trell Baker, the senior who made 15 receptions for 300 yards and three TDs last fall. He ran for another 508 yards and six scores.

“Everyone knows about Trell,” Hinson said. “He’s got the wiggle. He’s a playmaker.”

From there, it’ll be receivers-by-committee. Hinson will utilize precise route-runner Joe Steinman, undersized Tyrone Johnson, soccer crossover Luke Holland, sure-handed Cameron Gill and strong-side blocker Will Taylor. Johnson (5-8, 155) is a hidden gem, a speedster who won the CCC’s 100- and 200-meter competitions the past two springs.

“If we get him the ball, watch out,” Hinson warned.

Hinson says tight end LeVaric Johnekin (6-1, 215) is “good and getting better.” Fellow senior Adam Drye doesn’t miss assignments and junior Gabriel Clark (6-1, 215) offers another favorable option. Not a bad set of tight ends.

The name everyone will know by mid-season belongs to running back Mike McClain (5-9, 175). A freshman speedster, Hinson projects him as Salisbury’s most-prominent ball carrier. He’ll never be more than one good block away from the end zone.

“A lot of schools wanted Mike at their place,” he said. “But he lives in our district. He’s got speed and vision, can put his foot down and change directions. Physically, he’ll be fine to play varsity this year. By the time he graduates, he’ll be a stud.”

High praise, indeed. Also contributing from the backfield will be seniors Nick Austin and Ray Mashore, junior Raheim Walker and sophomore Jabril Norman (6-1, 195).

Salisbury’s defensive line is another question mark, but Hinson will take full advantage of the tools at his disposal. Johnekin is entrenched at left tackle and senior John Pruitt (6-0, 290) is penciled in at nose guard. The right tackle will come from a pool that includes Setzer, Josh Miller (6-0, 180) and Gavin Dishman (5-9, 185).

“Our linemen aren’t bad-sized kids,” Hinson said. “But they have to be quicker. You can’t be ‘small-but-slow.’ And they have to get better fundamentally. Still, I feel pretty good about 66 percent of the line.”

Norman, Mashore and Blaine Shellhorn will rotate as outside linebackers in the SHS 3-4 scheme. Nick Austin (5-10, 200), Tevin Mullenax (5-10, 170), junior Jaydon Brown (5-11, 180) and freshman Zae Clay (5-11, 200) will handle inside LB duties. Junior Sam Combs (5-10, 205), who didn’t play last autumn, is the grandson of college basketball coaching icon Dean Smith.

If Salisbury has a defensive strength, you’ll find it in the secondary. Baker (all-county, all-CCC) and Tyvion Wood (all-CCC) are shutdown cornerbacks and headlines waiting to happen. Holland and Walker are capable safeties. Tyrone Johnson, Gill and Joe Joe Fofana — a native of the Bahamas — are in the still-muddled defensive picture.

The special teams derby has been settled. Baker and Johnson will return punts and kickoffs. Jack Fisher will do the kicking and Will Taylor the punting.

“It’s hard to say where it’ll all take us,” Hinson said. “If we get the play we need from the offensive and defensive lines, maybe we can make the playoffs. They were 3-8 last year. I don’t know what our record will be, but we will be better.”

KEY PLAYERS

Trell Baker, senior CB/WR — Dripping with talent. A special performer, plays his disruptive best when you least expect it. All-county and all-conference.

Nick Austin, senior LB/RB — Attacks downhill and hits like Waterboy Bobby Boucher. Brings a mean streak and level of grit to a team that badly needs it.

Griffin Myers, senior QB — Key player on many levels. Has all the tools, but is learning to be a better mechanic. Works harder than Springsteen and so hard-boiled he burns the pot.

 

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