Last year, with the most decorated running back in school history at the helm in interim coach Marc Hicks, the Davis High football team stayed with a ground-oriented offense for much of the season on its way to a 5-5 record.
New Blue Devil head coach John Wiley — the defensive coordinator at Christian Brothers last season and a former All-SEC defensive back Auburn — seems to have different plans.
With a deep stable of pass-catchers, DHS in 2014 could look to throw the ball much more. After having quarterbacks Quinten Jones and Emilio Barba take snaps under center or in the pistol for most of last season, the Devils have operated largely in a spread formation throughout camp and in a pair of preseason scrimmages, using with three to four wideouts per play.
Junior Nate Curtis, who made his mark with six touchdowns and 367 receiving yards last season, paces the local group of receivers, with senior Bailey Yarrow, Marquis Turner and Alex Levine also poised to contribute.
“Well, we don’t have a No. 1, or No. 2 or No. 3 guys,” Wiley explained. “We have a collection of wide receivers. If Marquis is in the game or Alex Levine is in the game, the expectation is the same: Whoever is in the game at wide receiver is going to get open and catch the ball.”
Throw in a pair of imposing tight ends — coaches love the athleticism and physicality of senior Nash Nunes and sophomore Tucker Fisk — and the Davis quarterback will have plenty of options come Friday’s season opener (7:15 p.m. against River Valley at Brown Stadium).
Wiley, however, has not yet identified which QB will be throwing the passes. That competition is between Quinn Williams, a senior who missed last season with a torn ACL, and last year’s JV signal-caller Jack Beckman, a junior.
If Williams is the choice, the Blue Devils will get a dual-threat quarterback who has taken off on several designed keepers during preseason camp and the two scrimmages. Also expected to start at safety, Williams has shown arm strength and accuracy with his throws — as has Beckman, who brings the prototypical size and pocket presence to the QB position.
The offense won’t all come through the air, as DHS has at least two capable running backs in senior Wally Perez and junior Cole Morse. Last season, while Morse was putting up big numbers for the Devil JV squad, Perez was splitting carries with classmate Talek Deary behind varsity workhorse Winfred Roberson.
Deary, expected to provide explosiveness as a running back and kick returner this year, was not listed on the most recent varsity roster released by Davis High.
No matter who is in the backfield, Wiley knows the key will be the blocking from a new-look Blue Devil offensive line. The new coach hasn’t named starters, but seniors Nate Ortiz, Anthony Pedroia, Ben Gore and Trent Hart-Vasquez, along with sophomore Nicholas Amoah, have taken the majority of the first-team snaps in camp.
“We still gotta improve our running game, and it’s not the running backs, it’s up front,” Wiley said. “Our line play up front … we’re not (yet) doing what we need to do to push people around.”
“It’s really just an attitude. If you look at what we did at Sac State camp (earlier this summer), we were tremendous at doing that. Now it’s not a technique thing, but it’s an attitude you have to have.”
— Enterprise staff writer Thomas Oide contributed to this report.