By Tyler Waldrep
John Carroll coach Logan Colafrancesco felt a little nervous about how the players would receive him when he met with them for the first time in the spring.
Turns out, he didn’t have anything to worry about.
“Sometimes I’ll sit there with my hands on my hips in practice not paying attention and somebody will come hit me, and I’ll look and it will be a kid, like, ‘Hey, coach, get your hands off your hips.’ And I’m, like, ‘You’re right.’ And that tells me that they’re starting to buy in,” Colafrancesco said.
As a John Carroll alumnus who has watched most of his immediate family graduate from the school and even marry other alumni, Colafrancesco had high expectations for the program. But first, things had to change. Some changes were small, such as encouraging players to sit together at lunch or adjust their body language to keep their hands off their hips.
Other changes were more noticeable. Colafrancesco’s predecessor, Tim Sanders believed in playing the best guy available at every position even if the team’s lack of depth meant some players had to start on both offense and defense. Colafrancesco has decided to play 11 unique starters on each side of the ball.
“We started this spring with 39 kids nine through 12. I mean, Homewood probably has 39 seniors,” he said. “But now we’re up to 52 kids, so we’ve gained 13 or 14 kids (and) we’ve lost a couple.”
John Carroll’s depth problems aren’t going away anytime soon, but Colafrancesco is confident there will be a time in the future when his players won’t have to learn a second position and play as a backup on the other side of the ball.
Colafrancesco said the strength of his defense probably is with linebackers such as Ransom Redmon and Kenyetta Williams.
He said Williams “can run sideline to sideline. He’s our jack-backer. We do some one-on-one stuff. He’s always in on the tackle or around the ball and he’s got a great motor.”
John Carroll will employ a three-man defensive line, to help the linebackers up front, consisting of Michael Watts, Rahael Poe and Dequan Ball.
Zach Elliot, C.J. Burrell, Will Chamoun, Jeremy Spencer and Dwuan Williams are all in the mix to start in John Carroll’s secondary.
“Dwuan Williams is a shutdown corner,” Colafrancesco said. “He started as a freshman last year, and he’s very, very athletic.”
When it came time to pick a starting quarterback, Dwuan Williams found himself in a two-man competition with junior Bailey Mara. Colafrancesco said things probably worked out for the best considering Williams’ ability to contribute so much on the defensive side of things.
“I mean, Bailey’s 6 feet 3 inches and Duawn’s 5 feet 6 inches, so he’s more of a sprint out guy and all that, and Bailey’s more of a dropback pure passer. … He fits more of the mold of what we’re trying to do,” Colafrancesco said.
Left tackle Anthony Bostany is new to the program, but he has played basketball for the school in the past. Joining him on the offensive line are Shakir Hasan, Cydrick Walker, John Werszner, Ethan Scholtz and Asad Muhammed.
They will be tasked with clearing the way for a couple of running backs, including Demetrius Battle, Dekelian Hall and Gyasi Hill.
“For us to move the football, we’ve got to run the football and I love throwing it,” Colafrancesco said. “I’d throw it every down if we could, I love (Washington State coach) Mike Leech and all that stuff.”
When Mara does drop back to pass, Alex Mitchell will provide him with a big target that Colafrancesco plans to line up in several different ways throughout the season. Fellow receivers Malcolm Russell and Conner Bader also figure to play a prominent role in the passing offense.
Colafrancesco said Bader is “football savvy, knows how to run routes, knows how to get open, pretty athletic kid. We can move him kind of around everywhere.”
When Bader and his teammates on the offensive side of the ball can’t get it done, Lucas Stachan is the favorite to come out and kick field goals, punt and even attempt some fakes.
“We’re not going to be the cookie-cutter, fourth-and-half-an-inch, punt the ball and play defense,” Colafrancesco said. “We’re not good enough for that right now. In order for us to win some games we’ve got to take chances.”
Those chances won’t always pay off, but Colafrancesco said the thought of throwing caution to the wind and going for it has his team excited for the season to start.
“These kids are dying to win, they really, really want to win,” ColafJrancesco said. “Everybody expects us to go 0-10, shut the program down, whatever. I was not hired for that. This place means a lot to me, and I stay up late at night figuring out ways to do it.”