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Gorman: USO's passing attack one for the record book

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Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013, 11:03 p.m.
 

LaRoi Johnson laughs at the suggestion that USO's eye-popping pass game is the product of a frustrated tight end.

But he doesn't deny it.

“That's exactly what it is,” said Johnson, a former Peabody star who is USO's playcaller. “All my life, I looked at the City League and its lack of passing and thought, if you could take the athletes and teach them college concepts you can be really dangerous.”

So dangerous that USO quarterback Ron Brown has passed for 1,337 yards in three games, an average of 445.7 yards per. The Westinghouse transfer passed for 525 yards against Carrick, the second-most yards in state history.

Carrick coach Craig Aguglia was impressed by both Brown and receiver Marcus Johnson. Aguglia compares Brown's throwing motion to that of City League legend Major Harris, and called one of Johnson's catches “amazing.”

What Aguglia didn't appreciate was USO attempting 36 passes during the 52-21 victory. Did he think USO was trying to pad its players' statistics?

“You're up 30 points and you're still throwing the ball?” he said. “I'm not saying we would have won the game — they are a talented football team, probably the best in the City — but were they pumping up their stats? Yes, by all means.”

Johnson has heard similar complaints around the City, given his constant no-huddle offense.

“Here's my response to that: We are a passing team,” Johnson said, reminding that USO won the 2011 City title led by 1,700-yard rusher Jaylen Coleman but has since had to reinvent its offense. “Our biggest kid is 240 pounds. We have an undersized line. We're not moving people. We don't have a choice but to take advantage of our undersized guys.”

That involves five-receiver sets and substituting bubble screens for runs in an up-tempo offense based upon Oregon's pace and SMU's spread.

That's not to suggest USO's offense is complex. Johnson said his playbook has only nine pass plays but, using his arena football playing experience, they are loaded with option routes and have one player tagged to run a different route.

“They're not just satisfied with the catch,” he said. “We're trying to score every time we touch the ball.”

USO faces its first true test Thursday against City League rival Brashear.

We'll soon find out then if this record-setting run is the real deal or just a passing fancy.

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