The countdown to the season opener for Doug Haas and the Wooster Generals is now barely a week away before the Generals host Akron Garfield August 24 to mark the unofficial start to the 2012-13 school year.
Haas is stepping in, replacing longtime General boss Mike McCreary at the helm. Wooster went 4-6 a year ago and 2-5 in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, numbers Haas is hoping to improve upon in his first year. Although there were critical graduation losses for the Generals, including quarterback Devin Daugherty, Haas still has a number of veteran players returning.
Wrapping up an intense summer program, which included a team camp at Ohio Northern and three weeks of two-a-day practices, Haas has been pleased with what he has seen before the games turn real.
“Coming out of our Dover scrimmage, I’ve been pleased with our performance,” said Haas. “There are still several things we need to improve upon. We watched film from (Dover) and made the corrections to get better, and we’re going to take that into this week and improve upon those weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Hopefully we can continue to do that.
“I feel the kids have progressed from what I’ve seen. They are enthusiastic and they come in to work. That’s a big part of the battle during three weeks of two-a-days. We’re not particularly deep and we need to continue to develop that depth.”
That’s half the battle, but the other half is equally critical, as Haas has brought a spread, no-huddle offense to play as the Generals’ base offense. Even with a number of veterans returning offensively, a new offense has brought “a learning curve” into play.
“There certainly is a learning curve, but I’ve been pleased at times,” said Haas. “Like any group that’s learning something new, there is inconsistency. The biggest battle is being more consistent daily, practice to practice. We need to be more consistent making the right throws and making the right blocks. We continue to progress and all in all I’ve been pleased.”
An expectation of rapid growth will certainly fall on sophomore quarterback Cam Daugherty’s shoulders, who won the quarterback battle over junior Adam Kotulock, but those expectations also fall on the coaching staff.
“As coaches we have to put Cameron in the best position to be successful and what he can handle from a mental standpoint,” said Haas. “It’s up to us to evaluate what we can feed him from a check standpoint and how much flexibility we can give him to get us out of a bad play and into a good play. Cam has done well. He’s part of the consistency issue – like everybody, he has struggled with consistency. When he is there, he has shown tremendous flashes both with his legs and arm and that is what excites us.
“We did not name a starter until Monday (August 13) because Adam Kotulock did a great job of competing for two weeks. That competition made Cam and Adam get better, but Cam can be so dynamic with his legs, which can be a distinct advantage for us.”
What will help the offense as well is there is a veteran group of players on the receiving end of the passing attack. Seniors Ethan Keck (6-foot, 180 pounds) and Darrian Owens (6-0, 185) will be the two outside receivers, while classmates James Preston (6-1, 175) and 6-4, 220-pound Charles Cairnie will be the inside receivers. Senior Marcel Anderson (5-10, 175) will open as the lone running back.
The line is anchored by left tackle Grant Stokes (6-0, 250), who is a four-year starter on the O-line for the Generals. Junior Ben Nolt (6-1, 215) will start at right guard, with junior Michael Elliott (6-4, 290) stepping in at center. Junior Cy Morgan (6-0, 220) and tackle Jimmy Thomas (6-1, 220) will handle the right side of the line.
“It’s a veteran group from a program standpoint,” said Haas. “You’re looking at four seniors to support a sophomore quarterback, so that’s exciting for me. And you are also talking about a guy supporting Cam that is a four-year starter like Grant Stokes to support him from the blind side. As a coach, I’m excited to have four juniors starting on the offensive line and talk about guys for the future.”
Wooster will operate out of a 4-3 base defense and in a pass-happy conference Haas knows the key will be to get pressure on the opposing quarterback.
“I think any defensive coordinator’s hope is if they can get pressure out of the front four, then they can drop seven into coverage,” said Haas. “Ashland and Orrville are the talk of the walk, so to speak, so we have to build appropriately from a defensive foundation to beat those two teams. … We have to get pressure up front with our down four. If we are not doing that with our front four, that will pose problems for us. We’re going to pressure when we feel pressure is necessary and when it becomes an advantage for us.”
Currently, senior Evan Stoll (5-11, 195) and Brandon Defibaugh (5-11, 195) are vying for one defensive end position. Billy Hill, a 6-0, 245-pound senior will open at tackle, senior Trever Chapman (6-0, 280) will start at nose guard and Stokes will man the other DE position.
A trio of seniors will open at linebacker, with Kevin Komara (6-1, 220) starting in the middle and flanked by Cairnie and Mason Tomblin (6-0, 205). Opening on the corners will be Preston and senior Lebrent Ward (5-10, 165), while the safeties will be Anderson and junior Michael Patrick (5-10, 165).
Daugherty will also handle the punting, while junior Brian Crum will handle the kicking duties as well as play on the soccer team.
That is a lot of opportunities for players, and that was done by design, said Haas.
“We’re trying to limit the amount the upfront players are getting banged and leaned on,” said Haas. “We’re hoping to be able to run 60 offensive plays and 40 defensively, so that’s a lot of plays and why we created a two-platoon line.”
Haas and the Generals held their first practice under the lights June 4, which “seems so long ago.”
“It’s amazing how time flies,” Haas said. “I love this time of year from a coaching standpoint. Football is on TV all the time and we get a chance to go out and practice. For me it’s one of the most enjoyable times of the year. I get to work with the kids two times a day right now and I enjoy the practice aspect and the progress we’ve made over the past three weeks. I can’t wait to get out to practice.
“We’re under nine days until Garfield and 73 until Orrville. That’s exciting.”
And that is exactly what Haas is hoping to bring to Wooster this fall and make Friday Night Lights a smash hit.
Published: August 16, 2012