Continuing on with our series defending our selections at the respective positions on both our freshman and sophomore All-State Football teams, we turn our attention to the freshman linebackers. Linebacker isn’t an easy position to gain any meaningful Friday Night time as a freshman in high school. The fact these guys found the field this year, and in some cases, were All-District players this year, is really phenomenal. As we set forth in yesterday’s article about the 2021 second-level guys, a position particularly stacked in the Class of 2021, for second level guys we were looking for down-hillers in the run game while still having the athleticism (and, in some cases, length) to drop into coverage and pose problems for QBs looking to drop a ball between the 2nd and 3rd level of the defense. What really scored big with the committee were second level guys who were true QBs of the defense. Guys who nearly always had the front aligned properly, made appropriate defensive calls, made plays in space without which the other side likely scores, and (of course) guys with prodigious stats. Now, in judging stats, number of tackles were not as important to the committee as where the tackles were made in relation to the line of scrimmage. We don’t particularly like linebackers who even possess a reverse gear. We are proud to present our defensive second level for the frosh…
Will Darragh, 6-0, 185 pounds, South Oldham…Darragh is a guy most of Kentucky has enjoyed watching play for years. There are few things universally, or kentuckversally, believed any more widely than Darragh is, at least, close to Kentucky’s top linebacker in his year (2022). Incidentally, wait until we pick this team next year because, like 2021, 2023 is loaded at linebacker. Anyway, we digress, sorry.
Darragh spent the first four games on the injured reserve list. That aside, he still played in 9 of 14 games and made the most of his opportunities. Particularly when you are evaluating freshman, the selection committee has to pay more attention to how you played when you got opportunity than how much you played on Friday nights, particularly at a program like South Oldham and a position like linebacker. Darraugh came up big every time called upon. In all, he played 27 defensive snaps on the year and still registered 14 tackles with 3 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. On special teams, for a Class 5A football team which finished the year 12-2, losing in the State semis to State Champion, South Warren (and arguably Kentucky’s best high school football team regardless of classification), Darragh added 6 more tackles and caused a fumble. In addition, Darragh got a lot of run at TE on the offensive side and, with his frame that is a deployment which may well continue.
The grand total of everything we have above related is that there aren’t any linebackers, in all of Kentucky, in the Class of 2022 we would take over South Oldham’s Will Darragh. We had a chance to talk with Darragh’s position coach on Team Kentucky. What he said about Will cinched it for the committee. He said a lot of linebackers, when instructed to run through a wall; walk up to the wall, measure its height and thickness, try to calculate wind and speed, and work numerous equations before getting around to what they were instructed to do initially. With Darragh, you tell him to run through the wall…he runs through the wall. In the end, that probably defines the linebacker position. It certainly sums up an All-State linebacker to both KPGFootball and its selection committee.
JaWuan Wan-Wan Northington, 5-11, 195 pounds, DuPont Manual…This guy’s future is probably at running back one would think. He played running back for Team Kentucky. He was slated to play running back for DuPont Manual High School, a team which plays football in Kentucky’s largest classification and one of its tougher districts. The Crimson switched him to defense and all he did was gain selection to his All-District team at the linebacker position. Northington is reported to have played 10 games, as a freshman, for DuPont Manual. As before discussed ad nauseam, the Crimsons are one of those teams who don’t really annotate its statistics on the KHSAA website. However, Northington was reported to us as having been selected to the All-District team for Class 6A, District 3. District 3, in addition to Manual, has Butler and Saint Xavier among its enrolled members. Northington’s gaining selection to that district team, as a linebacker, was good enough for our committee. Not too many freshman could boast of something like that!
Jayce Hacker, 6-1, 190 pounds, North Laurel…Of all the freshman on this All-State team, no one played more nor better than Hacker. Hacker also played for a North Laurel team which didn’t make the playoffs, which in Kentucky, isn’t too easy to accomplish as almost everybody gets into the playoff nowadays. That should in no way diminish what Hacker accomplished in his ten games. Hacker had 106 tackles in only 10 football games and led his team in tackles, thought only a freshman. If we are going on pure production here, Hacker had the best year of nearly any linebacker in the freshman class in all of Kentucky.
Malicai Williams, 5-11, 185 pounds, Central High (Louisville)…Just as Jayce Hacker’s playing for one of the few teams to not make the playoffs in Kentucky lent itself to his having the best numbers among our freshman All-State linebackers, Williams playing for the Class 3A, State Football Champion, Central Yellow Jackets, lent to his seemingly pedestrian numbers. Again, especially with freshmen, the question becomes what did they do when given the opportunity and not necessarily what were there production statistics. Malicai played in the last three games of the year for Central, the three most important games, and registered 7 total tackles, six of which were solos, for a State Champion whose roster rivals any team’s at any classification in the Commonwealth for number of superior athletes. Malicai Williams is one of the brightest young stars in Louisville in one of Louisville’s top programs. Wait and watch him take off next year. Early prediction, he will be on this team again next year barring injury.
Chase Wells, 6-0, 202 pounds, Todd County Central…Chase Wells is a prime example of All-State players being found literally anywhere in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Chase has an excellent frame, particularly for a freshman, and moves well particularly for a young man his size at the position where he was deployed in 2018. It will be fun to watch how he physically develops in the Rebels’ strength and conditioning, off-season program. Wells has the good fortune (as does the rest of the Rebels roster) to be playing for one of the best, and fundamentally sound, technicians coaching high school football in Kentucky today in Darell Keith. Guess what Coach Keith is particularly adept at doing? You guessed it…develop linebackers. For his initial swipe at Varsity football, Wells recorded 23 tackles, over 11 games of experience; but, more importantly than that, registered 7 tackles in the backfield and 3 QB sacks. Yep that sounds like Keith, always attacking, always down-hill, always putting opposing offenses in late down, long distance situations. When Keith gets the roster like he wants it, and that is with a bunch more Chase Wells type players on it, the Todd County Rebels will be one tough customer in coming seasons. You can count on it!
Well, that is the defense of our selections, playing in the defense’s second level, for the Class of 2022. KPGFootball is quite sure these may not be the best second level defenders, in Kentucky’s Class of 2022, but we are equally sure these guys are among them. All of these players have distinguished themselves both on the field of play and in the class room. It will be fun to follow these guys as they continue to develop and play football next Fall. You will continue to hear plenty from these players in 2019 and beyond.
Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of the ballers out there that #WeGotUCovered and to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.
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