by Andy Hilton, recruit757
Oscar Smith brought home their second title in four years last year. They now have their eyes set on a repeat. August practices and scrimmages have them looking primed for a return to the title game, but the work they’re putting in now is only the latest of the many steps they’ve taken to get here.
Head Coach Rich Morgan is a taskmaster. That’s no secret. His perfectionism has led the Smith program to heights never seen before at the Chesapeake school and there’s no sign of a slowdown. To quote the time worn saying, Oscar Smith doesn’t rebuild. They reload.
Coach Morgan is just days away from the start of the season and I caught up with him to discuss the prospects for the 2012 season. Smith is replacing a quarterback, a starting running back and a few other pieces from last year’s state championship squad. Other than that, it’s surprising how many returning starters they have. It could be a scary year for the Tigers’ opponents.
At quarterback J.J. Williamson, now at Hampton University is replaced by DaShawn Blow. J.C. Coleman, now at Virginia Tech, has been replaced by a two-headed attack consisting of DeShawn McClease and Marcus Smith. Both of those back saw playing time in 2011.
“Deshawn is a tremendous athlete and he’s done a really nice job in the preseason,” said Coach Morgan. “He’s had two good scrimmages, so we feel good about where he is and what he brings to the offense. The receiving corps is mostly back from last year. Jaylen Bradshaw steps in for Sequan Gooding (Hampton University). Sequan was a great player, but Jaylen is a great player with a lot of speed so we think it’s going to be beneficial for us to get his speed on the field. Both running backs (McClease and Smith) are back from last year and four of our five lineman are back up front, so personnel-wise, we haven’t changed that much on offense.”
The Tigers add heralded blue chipper Andrew Brown to their offensive and defensive lines after Brown transferred in from Indian River High School. Adding Brown to an already potent lineup at Smith is akin to gilding the lily. It’s not necessary, but it certainly looks good. Brown makes the Tiger lines that much tougher for an opponent.
“Andrew is a five star athlete so that’s obviously going to help us out,” the coach commented. “On the defensive side of the ball, the whole defensive line is back plus the addition of Andrew, so we have a lot of depth there. That’s going to be the strength of our defense. We have two new linebackers in Corbin Tanner and Marquise Cooke. Melvin Vaughn is back and Zack Jones is back in the secondary with Bradshaw, Lakwon Chapel and Dior Dawson.”
It’s hard to find a weak spot or lack of experience on the Oscar Smith starting 22. Even on special teams, the Tigers have continuity. Zack Jones is back to handle the punting duties and last year’s freshman kicker Brad Davis is back as well.
“Our punter is back, our kicker is back, our long snapper is back, our holder is back, so there’s not really a lot of holes to fill personnel-wise, and the ones we had we filled with some pretty good ball players, so we feel pretty good,” Morgan stated plainly.
Recruiting has already been hot at Oscar Smith, with Zack Jones and Melvin Vaughn making their commitments early this year. Jones is headed to UVA, while Vaughn will stay close to home and play his college ball for Old Dominion. Other seniors are seeing their recruitment heat up, and a successful season will fuel the fire.
“Kanyia Anderson has about ten or eleven offers and has not made a decision yet on where he’s going to go,” Coach Morgan said. “He’s going to visit California. He’s been down to Wake Forest. He’s been to Old Dominion. There are a bunch of other schools (Involved), but he just has to feel that process out and see if that’s a decision he wants to make now or wait until February.”
“Darren Flowers has gotten a lot of pursuit, but he doesn’t have any offers yet. He’s an outstanding defensive end. Jaleel Shelton is an All-District tackle. He just hasn’t gotten the offers yet, but they’ll come around. Marcus Smith has a Division II offer from Brevard College. Shedrick Oliver and Troy Harris are both two way starters for us. They haven’t gotten the offer yet. Hopefully they will.”
Underclassmen Andrew Brown and Jaylen Bradshaw are already attracting a ton of college interest with Brown holding over 30 offers and Bradshaw garnering interest that will convert into a healthy offer sheet.
“Dashawn Blow will get on people’s radar as an athlete when he shows what he can do when he had the ball in his hands,” the coach explained. “All the kids have good grades, so whenever the offers come, they’ll be able to go.”
Oscar Smith is primed for another big year. It all starts Saturday night on ESPN when the Tigers face off against nationally ranked Byrnes High School of South Carolina. Both teams come into the game with high expectations and a lot at stake. If the Tigers pull out a win, their opponents could find them to be unstoppable in their quest for a perfect season and another state championship.
– Andy Hilton