Blue Devils football team counts on speed

slynch@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 8, 2013 

Bob Casey isn't stuck in his ways.

The Merced College head football coach knows how quickly things can swing in the junior college game. What worked well one season doesn't mean you'll have the personnel to do it the same way the next.

So when Casey hit the recruiting trail and realized a lack of all-around tight ends out there, he called an audible.

Blessed with an abundance of quick, playmaking wide receivers and a dual-threat quarterback, Casey switched to a spread attack.

The Blue Devils — who were 3-7 a season ago — will unveil their new offense Saturday as they open the 2013 season at Stadium '76 against Modesto Junior College in the annual Gateway Bowl.

Kickoff is 6 p.m.

"We just weren't going to have the tight ends to keep running the offense that we were," Casey said. "You can't be afraid to play to your strengths, and there was no point trying to force things when we didn't have the personnel to pull it off.

"There's no doubt that we are a much quicker and more athletic team than we were a year ago. Hopefully the changes we've made will allow us exploit that to the fullest."

Sophomore quarterback Javon Smith will run the show.

Smith saw limited time as a freshman, getting some late-season action because of injuries. There were moments of electricity, as he passed for 119 yards and rushed for another 32 and a score. They were coupled with some youthfully exuberant decisions, however.

The sophomore from Florida will create big plays. His challenge will be to keep from trying to do too much.

Having some reliable weapons should help.

Trunell McMillon leads an athletic receiving corps. Eligibility issues kept him out last season, but he was good for 616 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a freshman in 2011. McMillon provides excellent hands and is always a deep threat.

The Blue Devils return a big-play possibility at running back as well in Cory Chapman.

The former Buhach Colony star didn't see a lot of action early last season, but led the team with 466 rushing yards and six touchdowns on just 88 carries.

Sophomores Gary Womack and Edward Lomeli will anchor an offensive line that is young, but has good depth.

While the changes on the offense will likely garner the MC faithful's attention, defensive end Jesse Jimenez believes the defense is going to be the team's rock.

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