Get outta our way
A year ago, Nevada Union took to the Hooper Stadium turf with just three returning starters from the previous season, including just one veteran on the offensive line.
And anyone who has watched NU’s wing-T offense perform, knows it’s the play of those up front that clears the way for the offensive fireworks of the Miners’ high-scoring attack.
Ian Pilcher was that lone lineman last season.
A three-year starter and a 2003 All-Metro Conference first-team selection as a guard, Pilcher (5’10”, 230) graduated in June after performing as the unquestioned leader along that line and helped to shorten the learning curve for those lining up to his right and left.
“He taught me a lot about things,” said NU senior Brennan McFadden. “He told me about how much faster the pace of these games are and some little tricks for me to do.”
Those tricks might have helped, but McFadden will be the first to tell you that the high-powered hocus-pocus of NU’s “Miner Magic” attack is hardly done with smoke and mirrors.
But don’t ask him about it, just take a trip down to a Nevada Union practice some afternoon. McFadden, and his fellow seniors Ryan Cordery and Juvie Lopez, will be the ones manning that oversized contraption otherwise known as “the sled.”
At the command, seven sets of shoulder pads slam into the sled in unison, lifting the steel structure – and the coach riding upon it – a foot off the ground.
“Right shoulder, drive block!” Travis Johnson shouts before blowing the whistle again. “And crack your hips!”
“We’re getting better,” said Johnson, a second year offensive line coach for Nevada Union, the team he last played for as a senior in 2002. “We’re looking for that great footwork and the ability to get under people. We’re working on our leg drive, so we can move people where we want to.”
Last fall, the Miners moved opponents out of their way to the tune of 3,056 rushing yards – averaging 6.9 yards per tote – and another 1,340 through the air, for 4,396 yards on the year. NU outscored opponents by an average of 38.4 to 14.2 points per game.
Three of the team’s leading rushers in 2003 are also back, including senior twin torpedoes Rich (5’8″, 225) and Ryan (5’8″, 235) Herrera, who don’t mind seeing three familiar faces in front of them this fall.
“They’re working hard. They’re senior leaders and they know what to expect, because they’ve been through it once before” said Ryan, the team’s starting fullback. “They know how we run and we both know how they block.”
Cordery, a 5-foot, 9-inch, 210-pound tackle, and Lopez, a 5-foot, 9-inch 235-pound guard, give Nevada Union all the strength it needs on the left-hand side of the line.
“We’re the oldest players on the team, so we’re the biggest and strong and we know the plays, so we find ourselves coaching a lot of the juniors at times,” said Cordery, whose position coach, Johnson, did the same as a player in his senior year.
“It really helps (having a former Miner lineman as a coach),” said Lopez. “He knows the whole nine (yards) – what we’re going through out here in practice and what we need to do in games. He knows all of our steps and he knows how to get under a guy.”
Cordery said Johnson also makes sure his linemen – especially the seniors – know how much he misses playing the game.
“He tells us all the time ‘I wish I could be in your pads,'” Cordery said. “And he tells us how much he wishes he had another year.”
It’s skills of the trio of NU linemen, hitting the high school field for their final season, that lend the Miners not only stability, but also flexibility in the lineup, if necessary.
“They both could play either one of those spots,” Johnson said. “They’re the type of guys who can play anywhere on the line.
“I think we definitely have to be more athletic with our offense. You don’t see too many huge guys on our offensive line. We’re usually smaller and quick. But every once in a while a big guy comes along, but he’s still got to have those skills.”
At 6-feet, 3-inches and 265 pounds, McFadden is one of those “big guys” and his athletic ability is as evident as a power forward on the basketball floor as it is in his move from tackle to tight end for his senior campaign.
Studentsports.com, a nation-wide prep Web site that has NU ranked 25th in the state (Grant High is rated 12th), apparently likes what it sees in McFadden.
“The offensive line has some holes to fill, but Brennan McFadden is a prime-time player,” the Web site states.
“He’s a senior leader and just shows great leadership,” Johnson said. “He’s one of a couple guys on the team that can say ‘Hey, let’s get going!’ and the rest of the team is going to listen. But he also leads by example.”
Considering the skill-position players typically receive the most notice, those of the running back or wide receiver variety, the value of teamwork never more on display than on the line.
“He’s a big-time prospect,” Humphers said of McFadden, who, according to his coach, owns a 3.4 GPA in college-prep courses. “He’s getting letters from colleges all over the country.
“But the neat thing is he told me last week that he’d be willing to move from tight end – where he gets the ball – to any position we need him at. He just wants the team to have a great year.”
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
As far as experts go, The Union’s “experts” have not exactly lived up to the billing so far this season.