Jordan Addison had what some might describe as a high-profile summer.
Several big-time college football programs, including Notre Dame, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia Tech and Syracuse, reached out and tried to entice him with a full scholarship offer.
This came right on the heels of Addison posting a personal-best time of 10.85 seconds in the 100-meter dash and winning the Class 3A title in the state long jump (22 feet, 2½ inches) for Tuscarora during the spring track season.
“It was hard to narrow it down to one school,” Addison, a senior receiver, defensive back and occasional quarterback for the Titans football team, admitted.
He eventually settled on the University of Pittsburgh because of his close relationship with a Panthers assistant and the chance to play his preferred position, receiver.
But the 6-foot, 165-pound Addison had the college scouts drooling over his potential as a cover cornerback. His size and ability to change direction without losing speed are ideally suited to the position.
“It’s the toughest position to [recruit], period, across the board,” Tuscarora coach Vince Ahearn said. “For every 10 recruitable receivers, there are only one or two that can play defensive back. It’s a different skill set and a different size of player.”
Tuscarora’s fortunes this season are largely tied to Addison’s playmaking ability on both sides of the ball.
While the Titans expect him to be a shutdown corner on defense, his role on offense is not quite as clear. He might line up at receiver. Or, to make sure the ball is in his hands as often as possible, he could line up as a shotgun quarterback, like he did for much of last season with some success, and either hand the ball off, take off running or maybe even throw an occasional pass.
The trick is, for one of the rare times in its relatively brief history, Tuscarora doesn’t have a proven difference-maker at running back, like Aris Hilliard last season or fellow graduates Dominic Clarke, Marcus Anderson, John Chaney and Rodney Dorsey. They all distinguished themselves coming out of the Titans’ backfield over the course of their careers.
“I don’t do a lot of talking out loud. I just try and lead by example,” Addison said. “I want to make sure the other guys on the team can look up to me.”
In fact, Ahearn said one of Addison’s greatest qualities was his ability to accept and respond to coaching.
“You ask him to adjust something he is doing, and it happens immediately,” the coach said.
As usual, Tuscarora has talent and questions all over the field. Will a quarterback emerge to allow Addison to primarily line up at receiver? Can the offensive and defensive lines stabilize after an injury-riddled season last year?
There are no such concerns about the punter, however.
Senior Ryan Barrick (6-2, 205), who otherwise lines up as an offensive and defensive tackle, was one of Tuscarora’s biggest weapons last season with his ability to dig the Titans out of their own end or pin the other team back with his kicks in both good and bad weather.
“He was our most valuable player last year in many ways,” said Ahearn, who believes Barrick could fetch a Division I scholarship by the end of the season. “I have never said, ‘Let’s punt the ball’ and been more pleased to say that. It was like, ‘Oh, let’s call our best play. Punt.’”
A former soccer player turned kicker, Barrick admits that his ability to boot the ball so well at his size is “a conversation starter.”
It’s not often that a starting right tackle is called upon to make a 47-yard field goal, which Barrick did last season.
“It’s fun to see how different you are,” he said.
Region: Class 3A West
Postseason Appearances: 3
Last Playoff Appearance: 2016
State championships: 0
Coach and record with team: Vince Ahearn, fifth season, 24-16
2018 record: 6-4
2018 review: The Titans opened the season with a home 20-14 loss to reigning state runner-up Milford Mill that took three days to complete due to weather. That set the tone for the entire season. Though Tuscarora carried playoff aspirations into the final week of the regular season, it ultimately fell short after falling to Oakdale, 24-0, on its home field in a virtual monsoon. Moving the ball was extremely difficult on a very muddy field with the rain pouring and the wind howling. Prior to that, the Titans earned encouraging road wins at Poly, Walkersville and Urbana. Their only other losses were to South Hagerstown and Linganore.
Returning starters: 5 offense, 4 defense