DaLawn Parrish’s voice echoed off the back of Wise High School as his players stood, tired but still standing as tall as they could. Their shadows had long since been elongated by a hastily setting sun that had also drained their energy through hours of drills, reps, and Parrish’s loudly enforced high standards.
“You can’t make yourself a ‘two’ or a ‘three’ because you don’t know!” the 2012 All-Met Coach of the Year yelled, asking his players to play smart and ensure that only talent and athleticism — rather than knowledge of the playbook — separates backups from starters (‘ones’) for the defending Maryland 4A state champs.
A lack of familiarity with Parrish’s system may be the only thing able to hold back a Wise team that was already loaded with talent, and gained more in the form of a handful of transfers that will be impact players, if not all instant starters.
“[The transfers] are looking great,” said Penn State-bound defensive back Marcus Allen. “No one’s self-centered or anything on our team, Everybody is a family on the team, so that’s really good because they’re a big part of our team.”
Senior running back Adam Gillis Jr., defensive lineman/linebacker Tyrone Butler, linebacker Kyle Jackson and safety Reggie Ware — all of whom transferred from McNamara before this school year — are emerging as impact players through the Pumas preseason.
“There’s a lot of new faces that we have to blend in,” Parrish said. “So that’s the hard part, blending the new with the old and getting them to all be on the same page.”
“But in terms of talent, I feel very comfortable,” Parrish he added with a smile that indicated ‘comfortable’ was an understatement.
Gillis Jr. was one of the top offensive options for McNamara in 2012, and took first-team reps for the Pumas Monday. Jackson and Ware look to be crucial components of the first-team defense, and Ware also featured on offense along with Butler.
Joining them on the offense is yet another transfer, Nate Hampton Jr., a junior receiver from Arundel. Hampton played basketball, not football at Arundel, but seems to be making a smooth transition given he was taking first-team reps with the offense Monday.
“They’re looking pretty good, they’re getting used to our terminology, how we do things, different rules,” Parrish said. “Some things they’ve been taught are a lot different from the way we’re teaching them. And we’re playing very fast, so it’s coming.”
Parrish also has plenty of returning talent. Tight end Micah Till, a 6-5, N.C. State commit who caught eight touchdowns in Wise’s run-first (…second…and third) offense, was sidelined from practice Monday due to swelling in his knee. But Parrish said Till is “fine,” and “will be ready for the opener.”
As Parrish readied to leave the field Monday evening, he paused and looked out at his quarterback Isaiah Black, who was still on the practice field — helmet on and chinstrap locked — tossing balls to some of those new receivers, pointing when they cut the wrong way, calling out “do it again” when someone erred on a route.
Black, a 2013 captain, tossed 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012, while rushing for 454 yards and seven scores. He leads a deep and experienced Pumas roster that features just one player — wide receiver/defensive back Damon Hayes — who isn’t a junior or a senior.
Previous Camp Countdown installments: