Camp Confidential: Metuchen
MSG Varsity will visit the top teams in the Garden State during preseason camps and provide all the latest news leading up to opening kick-off. In today’s edition of Camp Confidential, we take a look at Metuchen.
LAST SEASON: Finished 5-5 and lost to Dunellen in the first round of the Central Jersey, Group 1 playoffs, 30-7. Metuchen has been moved to North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 this year along with Greater Middlesex Conference opponents Dunellen and Middlesex.
HEAD COACH: Sal Mistretta (3rd season, 17th overall)
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: OL/DL Dorian Miller, RB/LB Andre Corvil, TE/LB Mike Hronich, OL/DL Jake Gordon, RB/DL Jason Sims, SE/DB Daniel Briggs, OLB/PK John Arny, SE Hunter Clarke, OL/DL Rob Gilman, OLB Ryan Verlaque, OL Kevan Chaudry,
BOTTOM LINE: Metuchen won't attempt to be terribly deceptive about its objectives on either side of the ball this season.
With it, the Bulldogs are going to run as much as possible behind fourth-year lineman Dorian Miller and challenge teams to shed his blocks and reach the ball carrier. On defense, they'll often load the box with eight and play the favorable percentage that one of those guys will be free to make hits with the 6-2, 295-pound Miller exposed to constant double teams at strong side DE.
This is not to suggest that Mistretta should just come to every game in a t-shirt since he'll never have anything up his sleeves; This is just Metuchen's full acknowledgement of Miller's talent and impact and its intention to force that self-awareness upon the opponent as much as possible.
The Bulldogs ran quite a bit last year, too, with then-senior Errol Lindo. He carried for 1,578 yards and scored 19 TDs, and he took the handoffs from another experienced senior, Anthony Feltre.
Mistretta doesn't have a back right now with Lindo's breakaway speed, but he has two strong, durable runners in Andre Corvil and Jason Sims. Corvil goes about 215 pounds and Sims is about 195, and that's a lot of heft when following Miller into the B gap.
"If we can get those two into the secondary, they're big and strong enough to knock over guys," Mistretta said. "They both do a good job blocking and hitting the holes. We're not going to break off 90-yard runs, but we'll get four runs equaling 90."
Mistretta was also bent on a predominate ground attack because he'd been uncertain about the QB position earlier this summer. But junior James Nicolaiason won the job almost immediately at the start of camp and has shown vast improvement since he split time on the JV last year. He could be bringing diversity this Pro I offense much sooner than Mistretta had expected.
"He worked hard in the off-season and won it outright," Mistretta said. "James did all the extra things he needed to do to get ready. We're excited about the progress he's made and what we can do now."
The line that was to protect Nicolaiason was a largely veteran group, but some shuffling has been necessary. Returning center Jake Gordon broke a hand two weeks ago, and may have to move to guard until it heals. Rob Gilman has been out of the lineup with a bad virus, and a prompt return is not anticipated. What is known is that Kevin Chaudry will line up on the strong side next to Miller and veteran tight end Mike Hronich and they will lead the way for the backs.
"Nicolaiason has been much better than we anticipated," Mistretta said. "The play-action and some of that other stuff will be there, but he's not going to have to be a great thrower. You're going to have to stop the run with Dorian."
Miller is a devastating high school tackle, but is projected as a guard at the next level due to his lack of great height, but also his quick feet and athletic ability. He is regarded by many to be the top offensive guard in the state this season. Miller also has been a longtime handful on defense, coming up with 59 tackles as a junior.
Miller has received close to 15 scholarship offers, among them Rutgers, North Carolina, Tennessee, UConn, Boston College and Virginia, but he is yet to commit. One thing for sure, nothing about the recruiting process has caught Miller by surprise. His brother Dejaun was a star at Metuchen and played wide receiver at Oklahoma from 2008 through last season.
The Bulldog family suffered a great loss when Hal Clarke, the father of junior split end Hunter Clarke, died suddenly at age 50 late last month. Hal videotaped all of the team's scrimmages and games and, in fact, died soon after taping Metuchen's performance at a 7-on-7 competition in Edison. He was a constant and welcome presence in Bulldog Country.
To honor Clarke all season, each helmet will sport a blue circle decal with the initials "HC" in white.
THEY'VE GOT DORIAN'S BACK
Miller is by far the most celebrated Bullldog, though there is a good deal of proven talent behind him at linebacker and in the secondary. Those areas, Mistretta said, is where Metchen's strength lies.
"We've got experience and some speed there," Mistretta said. "They're (opponent) going to run away from Dorian, anyhow. We just have to be able to play the other side."
Hronich and Corville are back at inside linebacker and Ryan Verlaque and John Arny will play on the outside. Arny would have played last year, but a hand injury limited his duties to kicking. The secondary will feature Daniel Briggs at safety."
Sept. 8 vs. Dunellen
Sept. 15 t South River
Sept. 22 vs. Shore Regional
Sept. 28 at Cardinal McCarrick
Oct. 6 vs. Middlesex
Oct. 13 vs. Spotswood
Oct. 20 vs. Asbury Park
Oct. 27 at Meter Dei
Nov. 2 at Highland Park
Mike Kinney covers football for MSG Varsity. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeKinneyHS