Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The 'Wright' stuff for Dinuba

Photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna
Michael Wright is looking to make some noise this season with Dinuba High football - similar to the row of Harley Davidson's cranking up their engines as the Emperors walk down their 'green mile' before entering Claud Hebert Field.

However, Wright - a four-year varsity running back - wants to do more than just get his home crowd cheering thunderously for the motorcycles revving up their engines. The returning senior hopes to get the home crowd excited when he touches the ball, plus lift Dinuba High to elite company in the Central Section.

Those opportunities will be presented soon for Dinuba's top offensive playmaker from last year and his Emperor teammates, as the reigning section Division III champions will open the season with a huge Tulare County contest against Mission Oak-Tulare on Friday, Aug. 29, in Dinuba. The Hawks will be one of three new heavyweight challenges for Dinuba. El Diamante-Visalia, last season's Division II champs, is on the schedule (Sept. 19). Tulare Union is another key non-league game for Wright and the Emperors (Oct. 3).

Despite the tough non-league slate, Wright said he's motivated about going against some of the section's top powerhouses.

"We're really excited," Wright said. "Mission Oak has a lot of hype. Everyone seems high on them in the Valley. I feel like we're underrated. I think everyone feels that way here."

Is Dinuba - winners of 33 of its last 39 games - still getting slept on in the Central Valley?

"We're definitely the sleeper team," Wright said. "We feel very overlooked. But, I guess it's better to be overlooked than someone who has people expecting a lot from them."

Not only has the Emperors been tagged with the "overlooked" label, but Wright finds himself as a superstar running back who's had colleges looking past him.

Wright has 3,425 career rushing yards for the Emperors. He's scored 61 offensive touchdowns, including 36 during the Emps' DIII title run.

And there's been no scholarship offer for the 5-foot-10, 185-pound scoring machine.

He said he's been in contact with some mid-major programs in the Football Championship Subdivision and the Mountain West Conference.

"I've talked to Sacramento State a lot. I've also talked to UC Davis. Fresno State talked to me over the summer. Cal Poly as well," Wright said.

Wright brings back versatility to the Dinuba offense. He doubles as an elusive, breakaway threat in the running game and can catch out of the backfield. He gets the Dinuba fans energized with his burst through the open hole and the second gear he shows with his speed.

Wright, though, doesn't boast about his own skill set. He gives credit to who clears the way for him.

"I think I've gotten a lot closer to my offensive linemen," Wright said. "I understand what they see (in this offense). My patience is getting better with this offensive line. A strength for me right now is reading my linemen."

Wright added that a winter sport got him to be the football talent he's become.

"Wrestling has helped me a lot," Wright said. "I can stay low when I hit people. It also helps with my speed because I have a quick burst. Wrestling has been a big part of my success in football."

The returning senior has had an illustrious career - the kind of career that could get him to be the school's all-time leading rusher this season. But despite his success in shoulder pads and helmet, he said he still looks to improve his overall game, particularly his ball-handling ability.

"I always work on carrying the football. You have to work on ball security no matter what," Wright said. "I want to have it (the ball) at all times. If I give it away, then it gives the other team a chance to score."

Is he also thinking about going down in the Dinuba High record books?

"No. I actually haven't really thought about it," Wright said. "My line, though, cares about it. I think it'll be an accomplishment for them. But I'm sure my mom and others will be proud of it once they announce 'Michael Wright: all-time leading rusher at Dinuba High.' But I can care less."


What to like: We have to start with Wright's speed. He'll quickly shoot through a hole like a torpedo leaving a submarine. His vision and patience with his blockers also makes him an ideal running back for the next level. He has quick feet and can run around defenders. He shows breakaway speed when he has the football in his hands. His wrestling background gives him an edge in stamina and with keeping his pad level low.

What to build on: I'll need to see his ability to pass block and how he picks up on blitzing linebackers. I'll also need to see if he can break multiple tacklers. Another key will be how well he performs against a much tougher schedule.

Overall: Wright is, in Cali Gold Mine's book, the biggest sleeper in the Central Section. He plays like a running back who can have up to five scholarships by now. He'll be perfect for any option style offense, like Nevada's pistol system or New Mexico's triple option approach. If he improves his ability to go between the tackles, I'm sure more schools will take notice of him. Wright should continue to keep college coaches glued to Dinuba, especially after the Emperors produced Oregon State quarterback commit Marcus McMaryion.

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