EATON TWP. — While serving as Midview’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, D.J. Shaw was given added responsibilities from longtime head coach Bill Albright. It was Albright’s way of preparing Shaw to one day take over the program he guided to 172 wins over 27 years.
That day is now.
Shaw, a former standout athlete at Keystone and football player at Ashland University, takes the reins from Albright, who resigned after last season. Even though Shaw had been on Albright’s staff the last five years, he said he learns something new every day.
“It has been challenging,” Shaw said. “It’s something I always wanted to do when I got into coaching. There’s a lot of things you have to do that nobody can prepare you for until you’re there — so many little jobs on the side.
“Bill Albright did an awesome job of grooming me along over the past few years, giving me little things to do. But until you actually do it, it’s a lot of work. It’s been fun, but a lot more work than I ever thought.”
Shaw didn’t change much when it comes to Midview’s offensive and defensive philosophies, keeping intact the spread offense and the 3-4 defense Shaw ran.
“We hired a new secondary coach in former Amherst head coach Chad DiFranco, and he’s installed quite a few changes in our coverages,” Shaw said. “But, overall, it’s still the same base defense.”
That continuity has benefited the 11 returning lettermen, five starters on offense and seven on defense. Shaw said most of his returning players are at the skill positions, which gives the Middies a lot of weapons to build around.
“A lot of those guys have two years of varsity experience, some have three,” Shaw said. “That’s been our biggest strength. They’ve had success in the past and we’re looking forward to putting them in the best possible positions to succeed.”
Those players include seniors Dante Redwood (wide receiver/cornerback), Brett Zupancic (running back/outside linebacker) and Cole Franks (wide receiver/strong safety), and junior Logan Bolin (quarterback/wide receiver/free safety). Zupancic, Franks and Bolin were all first-team All-West Shore Conference selections on defense last season.
“It’s easy for all the seniors to get a hold of what we’re doing and letting the young guys know what we’re going to do,” Zupancic said. “We’ve put in some new stuff, but that’s just stuff to hold on to because we know all of the older stuff.
“We’re changing it up a little bit because we have a big group of returners, but we’re mostly smaller guys. So we’re going to use our speed to our advantage. We want to put our athletes out there to make plays. You’ll see a lot of athletes going both ways this year, and the guys are looking forward to it.”
Zupancic is in that group. At 5-foot-11, 250 pounds, he may be the biggest featured back in the area.
“He’s big, but he can move really well,” Shaw said. “He’s going to get the majority of our carries and, without a doubt, he’s our leader on defense.”
Redwood is anxious for a bounce-back year. He suffered a torn hamstring in his second game last year and was limited to just a few games in which he was extremely limited.
“It took a good while, a few months actually, but my hamstring is a lot stronger than it was,” Redwood said. “I worked so hard to get them back. I could tell that my legs are a lot more stronger and I can hit with a lot more power than before.”
Bolin may not get a chance to duplicate his standout sophomore season as graduated QB Cody Callaway’s No. 1 target. Instead, Bolin may wind up being Callaway’s replacement. He and sophomore Dustin Crum, the younger brother of former standout linebacker Devin Crum, are in a neck-and-neck battle for the job.
“We told them they’re going to compete and battle throughout camp,” Shaw said. “We’ll make our decision once we get through both of our scrimmages and we can evaluate. They’re both 6-2, Dustin might even be 6-3.
“Both have really strong arms, good releases, are accurate and, most of all, very athletic. They can make something happen with their feet and extend plays. They’re both very, very tough quarterbacks. It’s going to be a tough decision.”
Shaw will also have to replace all five senior starters on the offensive line.
“We did lose a lot of guys last year, especially up front in the interior,” Shaw said. “Replacing a guy like inside linebacker Devin Crum is a challenge.
The kids up front were three-year starters last year, and those are tough to replace.
“We think we have the guys to do it, but we won’t know until we start playing. I’d say if we have a weakness right now, it’s our inexperience up front. That’s not to say we’re not good up front, but we have a lot of new faces in those positions.”
Senior Ryan Miller, who hasn’t played since his freshman year, and junior Dimitri Redwood are expected to contribute as receivers and in the secondary.
“I think we have the best receivers corps that Midview has ever had, and in the secondary we return three out of four guys,” Dante Redwood said. “Our linebacking corps, receiving corps and defensive back corps are awesome. Both of our QBs, I think, could start for any team in our conference. I think we’ll have a really good group here. It’s a lot of fun.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONFERENCE: West Shore Conference
COACH: D.J. Shaw, first season
2013 RECORD: 7-3 (5-2)
RETURNING LETTERMEN: 11
RETURNING STARTERS: 12 (5 offense, 7 defense)
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES: 6
LAST TIME IN PLAYOFFS: 2012
NUMBERS GAME: 1 — Playoff wins in program history. It’s a point that Shaw and his coaching staff have hammered home with the players.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Logan Bolin. The junior broke Eric Lauer’s record for receiving yards last year and came close to breaking the record for TD catches. But Bolin is in the mix to take over the starting quarterback position from the graduated Cody Callaway.
Aug. 29 Lorain
Sept. 5 at Amherst
Sept. 12 Elyria
Sept. 19 Rocky River*
Sept. 26 Avon*
Oct. 3 at North Ridgeville*
Oct. 10 at Bay*
Oct. 17 Elyria Catholic*
Oct. 24 at Lakewood*
Oct. 31 at Berea-Midpark
* West Shore Conference games
All games start at 7 p.m.