It has been hard to get ready for football 2018 without a daily glance at The Situation. No, we’re not talking Jersey Shore remake here (thankfully). We’re talking about quarterbacks.
In the past few months, discussion of Vela football has been dominated by the transfer rule, and the UIL. Tuesday the answer came, and it was half an answer. Frankie Zuniga’s move from North to Vela was approved, but Jacob Rosales’ attempt to come to town from Sharyland Pioneer was denied. The UIL has spoken and now it’s time to play ball.
Zuniga, who brings starting experience with him, was running No. 2 as fall workouts began, with senior Elijah Trevino at the No. 1. The former is mobile and smart while the latter is a good-size kid with arm strength. Highly touted freshman Chase Campbell, he of the rocket right arm, was getting some reps as well, with spring No. 1 A.J. Sotelo, a sophomore, on the shelf with an injury that will keep him sidelined for the next several weeks, at least.
So the SaberCats, 12-1 last year, advance into the fray, intent on replacing graduated star Nate Garcia with … well, The Situation continues, it appears.
One good sign from the first day was a drill featuring receivers and defensive backs, in which one ran a pattern while the other defended, switch. Justin Cantu was matched up against Brian Farias, and it was instructive to see both working at full throttle, especially considering they have had injury problems. Cantu, who broke out with a tremendous 64-catch sophomore season, seemed fully recovered from knee surgery while Farias – troubled with various ailments in the spring – also was cranking it nicely.
The corner Farias is the most experienced DB in camp, by far, and with his 6-3 length should be a bear for opposing receivers this year. His pals back there are new and unpolished, albeit great potential. The safeties right now are Jaime Perez, the baseball catcher, and Ivan Mendoza, a fellow sophomore. The former has garnered praise for his smarts while the latter seems agile and alert.
Vela has more excellent linebackers than a team could possibly hope for, including three-year starter Luis Gutierrez, a bona fide leader who is a banger inside. He can also surprise in coverage, as indicated by his two interceptions Monday.
Up front, the Sabes will have a little work to do in filling the depth chart, but one thing is for certain: fiery Sergio Carrizales, a high-energy character, is up to his old tricks already, enlivening the proceedings with chatter, hijinks, and determination.
In short, the SaberCat defense could be one of the best in the league, along with units from Weslaco East and Edinburg High.
As for the receivers, Cantu proved last season that he has a world of upside, while Azael “Ozzie” Garcia continues to provide tight routes and sticky hands. Nico Rodriguez at tight end is as good as they come, while junior Joe Ramirez is a stocky little guy who could be a comer.
Everyone by now knows about The Experiment, the move of Daniel Enriquez from safety into the slot. He has all the tolls to be an All-Valley catcher, no matter who is pitching the ball his way come September.
Which of course is still to be determined.
The thing is, with the tremendous O-line Vela has, and the fine stable of experienced backs, the quarterback position – while assuredly the key to every team’s success by degrees – is less important right now than the nervous nellies insist. Somewhere down the line, the club will definitely have to throw the ball at key junctures in order to advance deep into the playoffs. However, the running attack with Aaron Alvarez, Cristian Flores, and Kevin McKinney should be so blistering that it will give the signal-caller(s) a chance to settle in, progress, and get ready for the money outings.
Alongside tackle Jayden Borjas, the 6-5, 280-pound college prospect, Vela has sound guards in junior Jorge Hinojosa and David Carreon, and a junior center – Sebastian Garza, younger brother of departed savior Austin Garza – who looks to have moxie and sharp footwork. The other tackle, 6-3, 275 Tyler Bailey, is a monster in the making.