The shift to Missouri Class 2 football last season slapped University Academy with a rude greeting. A year after totaling seven victories, the 2012 production fell to only one win. The adjustment to a new schedule with tougher opponents — most of which were actually Class 3 or higher — didn't come easily.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
But the Gryphons are ready to adapt this year, coach Dan Stanley says.
"We're a lot better offensive team this year, coming up," Stanley said. "We've got some kids with some experience now. We can run it or pass it now. We're a better team."
The University Academy roster lists only 24 players — and that's on a good day, Stanley says — but the majority of the 24 were key players last season.
The Gryphons are expecting a big leap from its offensive line, led by Dominic Richardson, Malik Abdullah and John Bigby. Add to that, tight end Jaedren Murray spent most of his playing time on the line last season.
University Academy's balanced offense will feature sophomore quarterback Monta Porter, whose top passing target figures to be Bryon Winfrey.
Vonzell Stamps, Isaiah Newman and Zekial Smith will all get carries in the backfield with Najee Clarkson serving as their lead blocker. Smith, however, is more noted for his ability on defense. He will start at strong safety.
"He's probably about our best all-around football player," Stanley said of Smith. "He can do it all."
He will be supplemented defensively by the return of Nosakhari Eke, the leader of the linebacker corps.