If and when Hurricane takes the football field this fall, its offense will undoubtedly look vastly different than it did a year ago.
But different isn’t necessarily a negative thing, and the Redskins are confident that it will present an attack every bit as lethal as it has been in past seasons.
Gone are quarterback Austin Womack, workhorse running back Christian Hill and receivers Ryan Moses, Nate Barham and Abel Cunningham. But what this year’s offense may lack in experience, coach Jeremy Taylor believes it will make up for in talent and potential.
“Right now, I think this team has more chemistry than the last couple of years,” Taylor said. “We only have really four seniors, so it’s going to be a junior-dominated team. But I think we have a chance to be pretty good.”
In Womack, Hurricane lost 2,118 yards and 23 touchdowns through the air while Hill ran for 1,085 yards and 12 scores. Hager, Barham and Cunningham combined to haul in 115 receptions for 1,507 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Wideout Chase Hager will be the lone returning offensive player with significant production in 2019 after he finished third on the team as a sophomore in receptions (40), yards (480) and touchdowns (five).
Delivering Hager the ball will be rising junior Ismael Borrero, who saw limited action in relief of Womack a year ago and who brings a different skill set to the field with plenty of mobility and speed to match his arm. The Redskins, especially in recent seasons, have largely relied on pocket passers, but Borrero’s ability to move will bring with it some significant changes in Hurricane’s offensive game plan.
“This year, you can see that he’s grown, he’s got a nice arm he can run, he’s going to be the first dual-threat guy we’ve had since Jared Chapman,” Taylor said. “[Borrero] may be the most mobile quarterback we’ve ever had. He can sling it and he can run.”
“We won’t be as wide-open spread as we’ve been. We’re going to have a lot of tight ends and stuff like that. We’ve spread the ball out a lot over the last few years, but it will be a little bit of a change this year. More tight sets, we’re a lot bigger up front.”
Behind that line will be a running back by committee of sorts, with senior Tyrone Washington spearheading a rushing attack also featuring sophomores Jeremiah Riffle and Elijah Rivera. Riffle could also see time at tight end and should be a significant receiving threat as well.
On the outside joining Hager will be junior defensive back JT James, who is one of several players expected to play both ways this season.
“With all those people leaving, our offensive coordinator Derek Midkiff put in sort of a new offense that goes around not only myself,” Borrero said. “JT James, he will catch the ball a lot. He’s 6-1, 6-2 and he can go up and get it and I feel like we have four running backs that can tote the ball at any time.”
“A lot of the plays we have so far are boot plays where I have the option. if I can beat the D-end, I can take it 70 yards. Then we have [run-pass options] and coach has put a lot of trust in me to read the defense and use my legs if I need to and my arm as well.”
While the physical tools seem to all be there, not only for Borrero but for the rest of the new skill-position starters, Taylor said Borrero will bring plenty of intangibles to the game as well despite his relative inexperience.
“He is a calm kid, you can’t rattle him,” Taylor said. “Believe me, I was yelling at him last year and he didn’t get rattled. He just kind of looks and says, ‘OK.’”
Looking at the losses from the outside, it would be easy to write the Redskins off this season, maybe attributing the 2020 campaign to a rebuilding year.
But that is helping drive the team so far in workouts, and everyone agrees there will be a chip on the shoulder and an eagerness to prove themselves once the season starts.
“There definitely is,” Borrero said. “The last two years I’ve been here we’ve had losing seasons, so this year we’re definitely going to have a winning season. People are really doubting us right now, but with the way we’ve been going and how hard everybody is trying and how the culture and atmosphere has changed here over this offseason, I think we’ll be pretty good.”