High school football: Players both big and little

High school football: Players both big and little

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High school football: Players both big and little

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Roncalli High School’s Michael Clements is 14 inches taller than Josh Murphy of Perry Meridian, but they’re both outside linebackers.

Fred Hopkins of Tech weighs 177 pounds more than Ben Davis’ Nick Bruce, but they’re both offensive linemen.

If a player is undersized, big-time college programs are unlikely to look at him. In high school, however, that same player can be a star. As the regular season concludes tonight, here is a look at the unique diversity of high school football:

Michael Clements

School: Roncalli.

Position: Outside linebacker.

Year/ht./wt.: Sr./6-7/205.

Statistics: 72 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions.

Growing up: “I was always in the middle of the class pictures,” Clements said. “I’ve always enjoyed (being tall).”

On the field: “Being tall (is an advantage) because I have leverage and length,” he said. “When a tight end tries to hook block (get outside and turn the defensive player inside), it’s easier for me to reach out and grab them first. (But) having to break down and tackle people a foot-and-a-half shorter is an obstacle.”

Josh Murphy

School: Perry Meridian.

Position: Outside linebacker.

Year/ht./wt.: Sr./5-5/148.

Statistics: 57 tackles, three for loss.

Growing up: “It was tough,” Murphy said of always being one of the smallest kids. “But I played really hard and felt my size didn’t matter.”

On the field: After two seasons as the Falcons’ leading rusher, Murphy moved to linebacker to provide experience to a unit replacing 10 starters. “The hardest thing is that I can get lost behind taller (blockers) and can’t find the ball,” he said. Coach Scott Marsh, however, had no concerns about the switch: “I’m not good at Newton’s Law, but someone running faster into another player is going to have more of an impact than someone moving slow. (Josh) is tiny but he’s really fast, a student of the game and he’s got a defensive mentality.”

Fred Hopkins

School: Tech.

Position: Offensive line.

Year/ht./wt.: Sr./6-4/377.

Statistics: Five pancake blocks per game.

Growing up: “Little kids didn’t like me because I was too big,” Hopkins said. “In kindergarten, I looked like I was supposed to be in the third grade. I’d sit at a lunch table and kids would get up and leave. I got more comfortable with my size when I got into football. Now people love me for it.”

On the field: “I don’t have to use my full strength to get (a player) blocked,” he said. “I can get away with what most people can’t. I want to lose a little more weight to move better, but we’re a power running team. I thought football was just a thing to do every now and then, just a hobby. I never thought I’d get the chance to play (at Indiana, which he hopes to attend).”

Nick Bruce

School: Ben Davis.

Position: Offensive line.

Year/ht./wt.: Sr./5-10/200.

Statistics: Ben Davis offense is averaging 305.5 total yards per game.

Growing up: “Through junior high, I was one of the biggest kids,” Bruce said. “I played linebacker for the junior varsity, then was the smallest defensive tackle on the team as a sophomore. Junior year, I was the second-smallest offensive lineman at 230 and then I lost 30 pounds (without trying).”

On the field: “You always want them bigger, (but) about four years ago we didn’t have a good year and we had big linemen,” coach Mike Kirschner said. “We struggled to block fast teams. Now I’m looking for more athletic kids that can play better in space. There’s some teams we have to make sure (Nick) doesn’t get overpowered by using combo (blocks) and double teams, but that’s with any team. (Nick’s athleticism does) allow us to run more power plays where he pulls and gets out on the linebackers.”

Alex Rodriguez

School: Lawrence Central.

Position: Running back.

Year/ht./wt.: Sr./5-11/225.

Statistics: 90 carries, 810 yards, 11 touchdowns.

Growing up: “Since I was six, when I got in trouble, my uncle would have me doing pushups,” Rodriguez said. “Skill position-wise, I was the biggest one. I was not real tall, just heavier. I used to play O-line in little league because I was over the weight limit. In sixth grade, I was right at the limit. They haven’t moved me (from running back) since.”

On the field: “(Alex’s size) helps,” coach Jayson West said. “Anyone over 225 is what you’re looking for (at fullback, but) it’s more a matter of execution. He’s a very strong running back.”

Dallas Forler

School: Martinsville.

Position: Running back.

Year/ht./wt.: Jr./5-7/150.

Statistics: 29 carries, 299 yards, five TDs; 28 catches, 339 yards, five TDs. Starts at cornerback.

Growing up: “I’ve always been the smaller guy,” Forler said. “But it’s not really bothered me because I’ve always been faster.”

On the field: “(Dallas) should have started the first varsity game (last year), but because of his size I didn’t start him, and that probably cost me a game,” coach Fred Kutruff said. “We got beat for a late touchdown that Dallas would have (stopped if he’d been playing cornerback). I’ll never make that mistake again.” Martinsville’s spread offense also features 5-10, 150-pound Spencer Clephane and 5-9, 165-pound Kaine Liscomb.

Joe Fagan

School: Bishop Chatard.

Position: Defensive back.

Year/ht./wt.: Sr./6-4/200.

Statistics: 56 tackles, five interceptions, one sack; 20 catches, 301 yards, two touchdowns at WR.

Growing up: “I’ve always been a couple of inches taller than the other kids and took pride in it,” Fagan said. “It’s cool to be taller.”

On the field: “The other safety is 5-10 and always says he wishes he was taller since he’d be able to see more stuff,” he said. “You can see over the line and see what the quarterback is looking at . . . usually.”

Austin Coffel

School: Pendleton Heights.

Position: Defensive back.

Year/ht./wt.: Sr./5-8/140.

Statistics: 11 tackles, one sack, five interceptions; 10 catches for 225 yards and two touchdowns at WR.

Growing up: Pendleton Heights coach John Broughton remembers preparing for Coffel’s father, who was a 6-1 receiver at Anderson Highland. “I thought Austin would grow,” Broughton said. “He never has, but that’s not an obstacle.”

On the field: “Sure (I had questions about his size), but he’s such an athlete,” Broughton said. “I’ll think a pass is thrown too high and he’ll jump up and knock it away. In our opener, a Muncie Central back looked like he’d score a touchdown when (Austin) gobbles him up and strips the ball away.”

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