Burrell QB Wolfe ready to lead the pack
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Cody Wolfe remained calm and cool when Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt inserted him into the starting lineup at quarterback as a one-week fill-in for an injured James Liput last season at Ford City.
Horwatt said he hopes Wolfe will maintain his composure just as well this fall when the senior quarterback must make snap decisions with defensive linemen closing in on him.
Wolfe begins his final year with the Bucs as a player whose judgments could make or break the offense. Burrell will use a new playbook that's predicated on speed and misdirection.
As the QB, Wolfe will read the defenders who rush and then decide when he needs to keep the ball and when he must shove it in the gut of a teammate. No longer is he just responsible for turning around and dutifully handing off to a running back, as he did so often during his youth and junior high days.
“I've watched Tim Tebow do it, and I've watched Colin Kaepernick do it,” Wolfe said. “It's an exciting offense, and I'm excited to run it.”
In his lone start at quarterback last season, Wolfe performed well to help the Bucs beat Ford City, 17-10, and end a seven-game losing streak to the Sabers. A varsity slot receiver for most of the season, Wolfe moved to quarterback — the position he occupied for the junior varsity — and proceeded to complete 5 of 8 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 31 yards.
Horwatt recalled how well Wolfe took that game in stride. The position change, the stakes, the varsity speed — none of it particularly bothered the backup.
“That's a great attribute about him,” Horwatt said. “He's calm. He's relaxed. He lives for that. He steps up to the plate when asked to. As a coach, you want to see that confidence. And he has that confidence, where you know things will be all right.”
Wolfe, a QB for most of his career, recognizes his limitations at the position. He's not a cannon-armed pocket passer. He's not a behemoth who can withstand blitzes. He's more akin to an escape artist.
“I'm good with my feet,” Wolfe said. “I'm all about making plays happen when things break down. I'll look downfield before I run, but I run it, too.”
Wolfe and his skill position cohorts — running backs Ryan Sowol and Mitch Pollino and wide receiver Nicholas Pattock, among others — aspire to run a now-you-see-the-ball, now-you-don't show that'll leave opponents awestruck. They've made progress. But to master the timing and chemistry is a slow process.
“We're definitely getting a feel,” Wolfe said. “We're close. It just takes reps.
“I've got to be confident in my decisions. It's just got to come naturally.”
The new offensive strategy might produce a new set of Burrell stars.
A year ago, most of these Bucs watched as the spotlight remained on running back and linebacker Cole Bush week after week. But Bush, who accounted for 33 touchdowns and more than 2,000 yards of offense, now is a freshman at St. Francis (Pa.). While it's unrealistic to expect a single player to match that productivity, at least one will emerge as the team's new playmaker.
“We are letting a lot go through Cody,” Horwatt said, “letting him make a lot of the decisions and letting him read the field.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.
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