Garrett Shrader, Charlotte Christian QB
Last season the Mississippi State commit led the Knights to a state title as he threw for 2,300 yards and ran for 730 more while combining for 34 TDs. This year, he’s back and surrounded by many weapons that could have the Knights in line to repeat.
Q: You’ve gained more than 6,200 yards in your career, made a name for yourself, committed to college and are now entering your senior year. With all of that success, do you change anything going into your senior season?
A: I want to do exactly what we did last season but do it better. I want more points, more yards, less turnovers and do it in every game.
Q: I know there is a lot of new pieces up front, but you have all of these running backs and receivers to throw to this year. What’s it like for you to have all of those options and especially in the offense that you run?
A: It’s exciting. We’re going to be able to spread it around, and I hope that means that we can throw it a little more. But we have guys in all aspects and in all phases that we can get the ball to and know they can make the play.
Q: The offense is going to be explosive again, but I think that defense may steal the show at times. I think they’re going to be really good. What are your thoughts on that unit?
A: Oh yeah. It starts with JT Killen in the middle, but how complex the defense is amazing that they can run what they do. The secondary is really strong, our front eight is freaking sweat, so it’s going to be great to have them get the ball back for us even more. It’s exciting.
Elijah Bowick, Myers Park WR
Bowick didn’t play in last season’s playoff win over Butler, but the Virginia Tech commit talks about that and what to expect this season from one of the state’s top pass catchers.
Q: You hadn’t beat Butler in nearly 20 tries. How big was that win for you and for your teammates?
A: That win was huge. We hadn’t beat them in my three years and for a long time before that. To win in the playoffs, in that environment, that was great. It was a huge game for us. It was a goal for us all season.
Q: How is new quarterback Drake Maye looking and how would you rate yourself and your receiving mate, Moose Muhammad?
A: The new quarterback is throwing pretty well and learning the ropes as a young guy coming in. But as a receiving corps, we need to just do our part. I think we have one of the best duos in the country with me and Moose, so we just need to keep making plays and do our best, and we’ll come out on top.
Jaylen Nichols, Myers Park OL
Nichols is a menacing presence on a big and physical offensive line. Here’s why he thinks his presence and position group will make a big difference getting the Mustangs to the top.
Q: This team is highly regarded and expected to do big things. How will you approach that this season?
A: We have to work as a team. We can’t get too big-headed, and we need to keep our composure. We know we’re as strong as our weakest link, so if we play together, we’re going to be fine.
Q: Coach Chadwick said this may be his biggest line he’s had in over 20 years of coaching. How do you guys use that size to do your part to ensure a successful season?
A: Everyone just has to do their part. If I miss a block and my guy gets a sack, it’s the whole line’s fault because it’s a sack against all of us. We need to work together and use our size.
Triston Miller, Country Day OL
The giant offensive lineman is moving full time to left tackle for the Bucs this season, and is widely considered one of the best tackles in the state. He talks about how he’ll use his senior season to help keep the Bucs rising.
Q: I know you were frustrated with your recruiting, but on the flip side of that, how cool was it once the letters started pouring in after few teams initially showed much interest?
A: It was a really cool experience with all of the colleges coming to the school and offering me scholarships. That’s really helpful for other players at my school, too, because it lets them get in front of college coaches.
Q: You guys were NCISAA Division II runners-up last year, but what’s the biggest difference about this team?
A: Our size up front is great. All of us got in the weight room this summer, so we should be able to move people off the ball and that should help our skill players.
Q: What about your move to left tackle. How excited are you?
A: Very. It’s a transition going from left to right. It’s like switching from your dominant hand and foot to you opposite hand and foot, but it’s been a good transition and been really fun.
Caleb Ogumola, Providence WR
Ogunmola is going to play some in the backfield, star at receiver, play defensive back and probably return some kicks. The do-it-all senior is ready to make a name for himself and his team.
Q: I think you guys may have surprised some people last year. I also think you can maintain it. How do you make that happen?
A: I feel like we have a lot of weapons on offense and a really good defense. And we have a lot of chemistry. A lot of us have been together for four years, so we have each other’s back.
Q: Your role may be more different, and you’re probably going to be even more involved in the offense. How do you approach the season with that in mind?
A: I’m going to play both offense and defense this year, so I made sure I stayed in shape and worked hard this offseason. I have to play some (defensive back), so I’m learning that and always trying to get better at that position because I know it’s on me and I take pride in going both ways.
Q: You’re getting offers and interest from many different schools. What has that been like for you?
A: It’s been really good getting the interest, because I didn’t really have much before the summer. I think I had a pretty good season and they started coming, so it’s been a fun and interesting process.
Ari Rodriguez, Charlotte Catholic DL
An anchor of one of the meanest and baddest defenses around. Last year, the Cougars held their opponents to under 10 points per game, but Rodriguez says a new transfer and lots of familiar faces could have the Cougars back on top again.
Q: Coach Brodowicz is not hiding from the fact that he thinks this team is even better than last year’s unbeaten state champs. Why do you think that’s so?
A: We have a lot of players back and we got a couple transfers in, including Nick King. Plus, we have a lot of chemistry between us because we’ve been playing together for years and we put in the hard work to be successful.
Q: You have committed to Navy after getting a good bit of interest from other schools. What has that been like, and why did you ultimately choose Navy?
A: It’s been a blessing. I get to go to a great school like the Naval Academy and I’m very excited to go there. It’s a great opportunity and I want to thank God and my mom for the chance to do it.
Q: This line is good and big. What is your group’s mindset heading into the season?
A: We are one of the biggest defensive lines in the state, and we’re going in with the mentality that we can dominate any line.
Gabe Jeudy, Ardrey Kell DB
Jeudy is a smooth operator in the Knights secondary. The Rice commit amassed over 30 scholarship offers, but is now solely focused on continuing the momentum Ardrey Kell built over the second half of last year into this one.
Q: You guys get shutout in all three games to start last year and lost seven straight before winning three of five down the stretch. What does that do for everyone’s confidence heading into this year?
A: Last season was down, but we had some of the younger kids start to buy in and it was a big accomplishment for the team. For me personally, last year was hard because I hadn’t lost that many games in my career, but I knew if I bought in and kept grinding, it would pay off and we saw it happen in the latter part of the season.
Q: How much different is the locker room during those two stretches?
A: A ton. You could see guys were moping around during practice, but once we started winning, their energy went up and the team was full of guys wanting to win.
Q: I see some of the schools recruiting you with some Ivy Leagues and service academies thrown in. You must do well in the classroom, right?
A: Yes sir. I have an unweighted 4.0 and a weighted 4.62 GPA. It’s tough to play football and take the AP and honors classes, but I take school and football very seriously.