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Up for grabs

NC has no shortage of candidates to fill open slots

Posted: May 23, 2013 9:17 a.m.
Updated: May 24, 2013 5:00 a.m.
C-I photo by Tom Didato/

NORTH CENTRAL HEAD COACH Louis Clyburn instructs members of his team on the safe use of the helmet, in terms of tackling angles, prior to the start of a spring practice session in Boonetown.

One line, plenty of waiting.
If the competition for the quarterback job at North Central were held in a barber shop, the magazines in the waiting area would have been read from cover to cover.
With the Knights having lost three-year starting signal-caller, Grayson King, to graduation, there is no shortage of players seeking to step into his shoes. In fact, during spring practice NC worked five players under center, all of whom have experience, at some level, in the program.
Rising junior Hunter Wyant served as King’s chief back-up last year. He has company at the position in the form of senior Tristan McCathern and sophomore William Jenkins --- both of whom are also running backs --- along with senior Curtis Merritt and junior John Bowers, making for a crowded situation.
“William and Tristan might be the most battle-tested of that group, but you have the competition which makes those kids play just a little bit harder,” said NC head coach Louis Clyburn, who is entering his fifth season at the helm in Boonetown.
In McCathern and Jenkins, the Knights have a set of ball carriers who rushed for 641 and nine touchdowns and 440 yards and five touchdowns in 2012, respectively. They, along with Reggie Outten and Antonio Parks, give NC plenty of depth and talent in the backfield, leading to Clyburn and company’s tweaking the offensive package for this coming season. “The different things that the kids bring on offense, in terms of our running backs and quarterbacks, will allow us to give ourselves a little more flexibility in the things we run,” Clyburn said.
Plenty of time in spring ball was devoted to working on the two-back set. In order to get more ideas as to what schemes might suit the Knights best, Clyburn and assistant coach Guy Ekenroth used part of the off season to meet with college coaches.
“We talked to a lot of people out there who Coach Eck (Eckenroth) and I both know. We’ve made a few, slight adjustments with our offense,” said Clyburn, whose program’s numbers swelled to near 100, with the rising ninth graders being factored into the final figure.
“Some of the two-back stuff that we’re using is similar to what Auburn is running with Gus Malzahn and running backs coach, Tim Horton, who I worked with at Appalachian State. He gave me some stuff on their two-back offense. And, we also took some stuff from David Cutcliffe at Duke, who I went to see in their (Belk) bowl game; they were successful last year and they did a lot of two-back stuff.”
While depth and talent abound in the backfield, the offensive line is a different story altogether. The Knights lost a trio of starters to graduation including a pair who were three-year mainstays on the line. That group was one which had some spirited competition over the past three weeks with NC being two-deep at each position.
“We had some guys come out from our wrestling team who had never played football for us before,” Clyburn said of the offensive line. “We have David Martin, our heavyweight wrestler, who is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound kid. Hopefully, we can make him into an offensive lineman.
“We also do a lot of shotgun, so the center position is very important and we gave a lot of guys reps there.”
Graduation also took a good chunk from the NC secondary and that was another spot which was under the spotlight ion the spring. Clyburn said he had several players come up and make their mark in the defensive backfield.
“We talked to quite a few people and have tried to simplify things defensively,” Clyburn said. “It’s not that we were complicated last year, but we’re changing some things in the defensive backfield so, we have to simplify it even more.
“I think we’re going to be a little faster than we were last year on defense, which will, hopefully, allow us to do a little more of what we like to do on defense which is stunt and blitz.”
With so many newcomers and young players coming to the varsity squad, the Knights stressed fundamentals this spring, even forsaking the team period of practice, on occasion, in order to get the fundamentals down pat.
“We worked on fundamentals,” Clyburn said, “tackling, blocking and making sure these young kids were in the right position and in the right stance. In football, if you don’t have step one right, you can’s move to step two.
“For us to be successful, we have to make sure that our kids know our basic stuff and know it well.”
Clyburn, whose troops finished with a 5-6 mark last fall, said knowing the basics of the game and the offensive and defensive schemes are the major reasons why there is spring football practice. While wishing he had more days than those allotted by the High School League, the Knights’ boss deemed the May workout sessions a success. He hopes his players will be able to pick up where they left off come the start of pre-season practice in August.
“If we can say that we’re better tacklers, better blockers and the kids can get in their stance better and when we call this defense they know where to line up or, when we call this offense, they know where to line up, then we’ve had a successful spring,” he said of meeting the goals for spring practice.
“The thing that we did was to clear up some loose ends with our staff and have defined our football staff a little more. We’ve had continuity with our staff over the past four years and I’m giving our coaches more rope and more responsibility. The whole program is going to be a little cleaner and a little better defined going into next season.”



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