First in a series of DODDS Pacific high school football team previews.
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea – Jim Davis marveled at the sight before him, a 6-foot-5, 265-pound man-mountain who had just arrived a couple of weeks earlier and said he wanted to play for Davis’ Seoul American football team.
“What position you want to play?” Davis asked.
“Offensive tackle,” replied Xavier McDaniel, a junior late of South Carolina.
At Monday’s football practice, Davis recalled the moment and noted how almost any football player who enters a program wants to play running back, quarterback or receiver.
“You don’t get too many guys who come in and say he wants to play offensive tackle,” Davis said.
McDaniel is the poster-child example of a Falcons team robust in size, and athletic size at that. “Somebody that big, they’re normally awkward,” Davis said. “This guy is big and athletic.”
And McDaniel is not alone. At least seven Falcons weigh 200 pounds or more, and from tackle to tackle, Seoul American averages 245 pounds. And only one of the linemen, Sani Buckingham, is a senior; his older brother Christian, who played for the 1-6 Falcons last season, is walking on at the University of Hawaii.
In recent years, the only outsized Falcon of note was Sidney Malau’ulu, who stayed for just two seasons and is now a Wyoming walk-on. But the Falcons boast so much size, 240-pounder David Davison will line up at tight end. “And I don’t lose anything outside of the tackle spot,” Davis said.
He holds the controlled excitement, Davis said, that Tim Pujol and Yokota had in 2010, when a line featuring Max Lester, Dylan Kessler, Jesse Hogan, Victor Madaris and Jake Jackson came together and the Panthers knew they were at the cusp of a Far East Division I title. Yokota won that honor in 2011 and 2012.
But it’s not just the line where Davis and the Falcons are wealthy. Senior Max Weekley returns under center, he’ll have veteran Myles Haynes in the backfield and one of Weekley’s prime targets will be another transfer, Eben Shelton, a junior from Iowa.
And there’s another big gift in the form of a rare freshman tailback. “Every year, I always have one or two freshmen who make the team, but on defense. This year, there’s every chance I might start a freshman in the backfield,” Davis said of rookie Isaiah Branch.
Among the coaching staff working with the Falcons is Julian Harden, who led Seoul American to D-I titles in 2006 and 2008. “He’s great to have,” Davis said, adding Harden adds energy to practice. “How many head coaches can say they have a head coach to help out? He’s my hero.”
Although the components all seem to be there, still, this is a Falcons team that won its season opener and lost its last six games in 2013. So understandably, Davis refuses to put the cart before the horse.
“I’ve been trying to keep my emotions (in check),” Davis said. “I don’t want to count my eggs before they hatch. In workouts, we’ve looked good, (but) we haven’t been tested. We’ll see.”
They get their first test on the road Friday when the Falcons visit Humphreys kickoff is 6 p.m.