Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series previewing the 2013 edition of the Davis High football team. Today, the focus is on the Blue Devil offense.
In going 5-5 and barely missing the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs last season under coach Steve Smyte, the strength of the Davis High football team was putting up points in bunches. This year, new head coach Marc Hicks wants to do exactly what the offense did last year: light up scoreboards and create excitement for the Blue Devil fans.
DHS scored 37 touchdowns in 2012, using a well-balanced attack that saw 20 scores come on the ground and 17 through the air.
While the locals are confident that they can match that rushing performance, recreating the offensive balance will come down to the passing attack. The first step will be to replace quarterback Grant Dickerson, who threw for 1,672 yards and 16 scores last season before graduating.
There are still questions regarding who will take the reins as the Devil QB with the competition between senior Emilio Barba and junior Quinten Jones still at a deadlock. At practice the rest of this week and in Saturday’s Natomas High Jamboree, Hicks will be looking for one key trait in picking his starting signal-caller.
“It’s going to be who can throw the ball downfield,” Hicks said. “We’re going to have to throw the ball downfield; you have to do that in any offense. So we will be looking at that this weekend, and we’ll be looking at (Barba and Jones) during seven-on-sevens, and looking at the differences between the two.”
Hicks describes Barba as more of a “scatback” type of quarterback who can move inside and outside the pocket, while Jones is more of a traditional pocket passer.
But the biggest concern for the Davis offense is its lack of a go-to wide receiver. Dickerson excelled last season with the help of pass-catchers Kevin Sorensen (All-Delta Valley Conference second team, 634 yards and seven touchdowns), C.K. Hicks (All-DVC first team, 623 yards and five scores) and senior Brett Bloomfield (179 yards and two TDs), who accounted for more than 80 percent of Dickerson’s yards and touchdowns.
The problem? None of them are wearing Blue and White in 2013 — Sorensen graduated, Hicks will miss his senior season with a knee injury and Bloomfield has decided to concentrate on other sports — which will force the Blue Devils’ inexperienced receiving corps to grow into big shoes very quickly.
Coach Hicks has made all of his players learn two positions, which means he does have a large group of possible wideouts to choose from. Seniors Joey Dossa and Ted Riffle, along with juniors Nate Curtis and Bailey Yarrow are all prepared to take snaps at wide receiver. In addition, Hicks hopes that senior Andre Foster will be able to recover quickly from a broken ankle so he can return to the team as a wideout.
Like with the DHS quarterbacks, the next few days of workouts will be key to figuring out the receiving depth chart.
“Saturday will be the telltale,” Hicks said. “We’re actually going against somebody else besides ourselves. Going against ourselves all day, you start to learn the defensive backs’ tendencies and how to beat them. We’ll get to see how they will go up against maybe a bigger defensive back, maybe a smaller defensive back. Maybe they’re physical, maybe they aren’t physical. We’ll know on Saturday.
“Ted Riffle has been doing a really good job,” Hicks added. “At this point we’re looking at everything: how many dropped balls in practice, how many dropped balls per drill, everything. And I would say (Riffle) right now has impressed me the most the last couple of days on a consistent basis.”
Despite the questions facing the passing game, the Devils are confident that their running attack will be a strong foundation on which to build.
Hicks has four very capable running backs at his disposal, paced by senior and 2012 All-DVC second-teamer and Winfred Roberson, DHS’ leading rusher last season with 803 yards and nine touchdowns. Also returning are senior All-DVC honorable mention Austin Lampley (190 yards, two TDs in 2012), junior Wally Perez (186 yards, five scores) and senior Brendan MacDonald, who focused on defense and played a little tight end last year but has taken several hand-offs in camp.
Hicks isn’t only expecting his backs to take hand-offs but also to take part in other aspects of the offense:
“It’s really going to be up to them; who’s running hard, who’s not. Also it’ll be about how much they can learn, because the offense is wide open. All of my running backs have good hands, so any of them can switch to wide receiver if they have to.”
And Hicks has been saying throughout training camp that Davis’ offensive line is among the school’s best ever.
Though many starting positions on the offensive side of the ball are in question, that isn’t true of the line, where Hicks already has a rough sketch of what his team will look like up front. Jonah Williams will protect the quarterback’s blind side at left tackle, while senior and All-DVC first teamer Bailey Murray will play at right tackle. At the guard spots, Hicks has narrowed the competition down to senior Jordan Weston and juniors Nate Ortiz and Ben Gore. Sophomore Mike Goodison is projected to start at center.
Notes: On Saturday, the Blue Devils will participate in a jamboree at Natomas High, where they will get three mini-scrimmages. Beginning at 11 a.m., DHS will play against Florin, Johnson and Natomas. … The Devils open on Aug. 30 at Yuba City. … Because of low roster numbers, Davis will not have a freshman team this season. The freshmen, who have been practicing with as few as 17 players in recent days, will join with the DHS junior varsity squad effective immediately. Blue Devil athletic director Dennis Foster said the freshman team’s coaching staff — Adam Perez and assistants Arn Williams, Scott Stevenson and Rick Yaver — will help with the JV and varsity squads.
— Reach Thomas Oide at firstname.lastname@example.org