Armwood offense has a different look in 2016

Barry Wong reports

- The Armwood Hawks offense posted some strong numbers last season, outscoring their opponents by 367 total points and scoring more than 30 points in 11 of 15 games.

Individually, junior quarterback Darrian McNeal threw for 1,697 yards and 15 touchdowns, while running 1,238 yards and 21 scores.

Despite those numbers and a 14-1 record, both Armwood's offense and McNeal will look much different in 2016. McNeal, an Arizona commit, will make the switch to wide receiver.

"All before I came to high school, I played both ways, receiver, safety, DB, played whatever, quarterback, whatever my team need me to play," he said.

Need is the key word there. He's shifting over because Devin Black is transferring in from Lennard High. As a sophomore, he threw for 1,826 yards and 11 TDs. He's also transferring from a 7-4 team that missed the playoffs to a 14-1 team that's made three-straight state championship games.

"It gives me a lot of motivation," Black said. "Their expectations are all the way through the roof."

Both McNeal and Black say they've developed good chemistry over the summer and to start fall practices. Head coach Sean Callahan says McNeal is getting more comfortable each practice playing wideout, and some other positions.

"With Devin being a quarterback now, that freezes up Pickles (McNeal) to play slot, corner, punt return, kick return, that's the kind of football player he really is," Callahan said. "Now, I can do what I envisioned and play him at a multiplicity of positions."

If McNeal plays both ways, he'll be the first Hawk to do since 1995. The plan is to get him the ball 15-plus times a game. With another offensive weapon on the field, that means more space of the numerous other options on the offensive side of the ball.

"That's how we confuse the defense," junior runningback Brian Snead said. "They don't know who's getting the ball."

With McNeal to play primarily in the slot, that certainly will create space for Snead, who ran 1,227 yards and 17 touchdowns last season.

In the end, Callahan and the players hope these changes help down the line with another potential matchup with Miami Central in the title game. Central has defeated Armwood 48-13, 24-10 and 52-7 to end the season the last three years. Callahan says improving deep downfield passing is a priority, especially in preparing for another potential matchup.

For McNeal, the urgency is there coming into his senior season.

"It's my last one. This is the fourth quarter of my whole high school career," he said. "This is my last chance at a high school ring. I got to go all out."

Armwood opens the season on the road at Plant City on Friday at 7:30 p.m. 

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