For the past two seasons, Plan A for the Walt Whitman High School football team’s offense was to get the ball to University of Maryland recruit Zac Morton — he finished 2013 with 247 carries for 1,499 yards and 16 touchdowns and 17 catches for 194 yards and a score. If that didn’t work, Plan B was much of the same, Vikings coach Jim Kuhn said.
While Whitman (7-3 record in 2013) isn’t yet feeling the extent of the absence of Morton’s run game during spring passing league, it’s certainly not too early to start thinking about options. And the Vikings actually have plenty.
“We have to fill the void left by Zac and it’s a big void but we’ll probably be a little more multidimensional,” Kuhn said. “I think it’s going to be harder for opposing coaches to prepare for us. We have more guys, more weapons that we can feature. Last year and even the year before that, to a certain degree, it was, “Focus on No. 4.” And if teams could stop him they could pretty much stop our offense. I think this does make us more diverse even if it is out of necessity.”
Nobody wins football games in the spring, Kuhn said, so the Vikings will pay little mind to their 2-5 record in Seneca Valley’s seven-on-seven league. Whitman did look good in a win against Paint Branch last week but had to bail on Monday’s doubleheader due to too many scheduling conflicts with final exams. The spring season is more about rising senior quarterback Evan Smith connecting with his receivers and for less experienced football players to learn the intricacies of their routes, the sport in general and their teammates’ tendencies, Kuhn said.
Whitman will start a step ahead of where it has been the past few years by virtue of returning its quarterback for the first time in five years. Smith came in a year ago as Whitman’s fourth quarterback in as many years and the team’s first truly trained quarterback since 2011. He gained valuable experience in a successful 2013 campaign — Kuhn said there’s no way to accurately simulate what it’s like to actually read a game during an actual competition — and will likely get to show off his arm more in 2014 given the team’s personnel and Kuhn’s intent to implement more of a passing game.
Though the absence of 6-foot-5, 225-pound tight end Anton Casey during passing league due to a rolled ankle sustained at a recruiting combine last month has certainly affected the Vikings’ record this spring, it’s also provided a number of other players the opportunity to get some repetitions and present themselves as viable targets.
“Passing league is great, we’re able to key in on other good players from other teams as well as find our own strengths and weaknesses and what people can and can’t do,” Casey said. “We’re discovering a lot of new talent which I think is definitely going to help us.”
Casey, a Division I recruit, is on pace to be a major playmaker in what will likely be more of a play-action type offense this fall. He was the team’s second-leading receiver with 17 catches for 242 yards and three touchdowns. Rising 6-foot-4 junior wide receiver Jake Kuhn — who has grown up around Whitman football as the coach’s son and has a high football IQ — has also surfaced as an option. With their size and athleticism, Casey and Kuhn will likely provide mismatches on a weekly basis, the elder Kuhn said.
“[Casey] is a big, strong guy and we will probably get the ball to him in a number of ways,” Kuhn said. “He’s dangerous after the catch, tough to tackle and he has good hands. He will be more fleet of foot than a linebacker but if you put a strong safety on him, he’ll just be physically dominant. Evan has been developing confidence in Jake. Basketball has helped him understand how to play the ball at its highest point. [Smith] knows that if he gets the ball down into a critical zone he can throw it up and his guy is going to go get it.”
The scouting report for Whitman has been pretty simple the past two years. This fall’s team won’t be so predictable.
“The perspective on Whitman chances this year, I think,” Casey said. “Teams are going to have to think about multiple guys. I think we are going to be unpredictable, teams aren’t going to be able to guess what we’re doing.”