Oakland's super sophomores growing up on fly

Oakland's super sophomores growing up on fly

News

Oakland's super sophomores growing up on fly

By

MURFREESBORO

Kyle Oliver had big plans for this season. As one of several talented sophomore football players starting at Oakland High this season, he envisioned an easy transition from freshman to varsity ball.

At times, Oliver, a 6-foot-4 wideout, has had his moments on the gridiron this season. He is the Patriots’ leading receiver.

However, playing in the Big Boy League of District 7-AAA has also been an eye opener.

“It’s a real big step from freshman to varsity,” Oliver said. “It’s a lot faster. Freshman, you can do everything and you think you are the man.

“You go to varsity and everything is like two steps faster. You’ve got to get used to it. It’s real humbling. You are surprised at first. But it just comes at you.”

At least eight sophomores are either starting or seeing significant playing time for the Patriots (4-3) this season in what has been a bit of a reloading year. But they all have proven they belong on the field.

Oakland plays at Ravenwood (1-5) at 7:30 p.m. today in the Patriots’ final non-conference game of the regular season.

Oliver has 22 catches for 269 yards and four TDs this season. Receiver George Gbesee has eight catches for 128 yards with two touchdowns. Tyler Black has played on offense, defense and special teams. He has a punt return for touchdown and an interception. Hayes Foster is 23-of-24 on PATs and has 26 points scored.

Jack Jones has transitioned from tight end to the offensive line. Kevin Prather has started all season at linebacker and had 40 tackles entering this past week’s game. Josh Cunningham has played in the secondary, and Téjuan Henderson has played on the offensive and defensive line.

Sophomore Anthony Akers started early in the season on the defensive line before his season ended due to injury. Josh Smith was projected to start at linebacker before he sustained a knee injury prior to the season in an AAU basketball tournament. He could come back by the end of the season.

Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel realized early that his sophomores would at times play like sophomores. But he also saw their athleticism and their potential on the football field.

“They are learning on the fly,” McDaniel said. “To be honest, all of the sophomores that are playing are talented enough to play. But they are playing like sophomores at times.

“We knew going in there would be games that they played like sophomores. But the fact of the matter is if they are the best one, they need to be playing.”

Black was one of the most talented freshmen in Rutherford County a year ago. This season Black can be seen doing a number of things on the football field.

Black said youth can’t be an excuse as they are looked on to fill their role.

“You have to do a lot of growing up fast when you come in as a sophomore,” Black said. “If you don’t, you are going to get left behind.

“We have to go in and play just like the rest of them.”

McDaniel said while they may be sophomores in class after seven games they should no longer play like sophomores. He has become more demanding of them as the season has worn on.

“All of them are playing because they are capable of playing, but it’s just a consistency factor,” McDaniel said. “It’s not so much mentally as it is physically. They have to start growing up. These sophomore mistakes need to be limited. These sophomores playing this much are juniors now.”

Latest

More USA TODAY High School Sports