Yellow Jackets get Blue on defense
Gwynn Park graduated several talented athletes from an 8-3, regional semifinal team, but head coach Danny Hayes returns a group of athletes that include ESPNU 150 player Khalek Shepherd and the team's defensive MVP -- Bryan Blue.Blue, a linebacker, earned the honor over senior teammate and North Carolina State commit Raynard Randolph.[+] EnlargeCourtesy Mike LovedayBryan Blue earned the team defensive MVP award after leading the team in tackles.
"[Blue] was hands down the better person on defense," Hayes said. "His percentage of tackles. [He's] just smart being in the right place at the right time. He didn't make a lot of mistakes, which the crowd doesn't see."
The 6-foot, 210-pound Blue led the team in tackles with 112.
With Towson commit Nygee Carmichael and Shepherd in the backfield last season, Blue saw limited time at running back, but Hayes said that will change next season.
"He's going to do a lot of things for us this year," Hayes said. "He's really our running back. We should have done more with him at running back last season. This year we're going to feature him at running back and outside linebacker."
Hayes added that Blue will play more of a fullback position with Shepherd playing the traditional running back slot. Blue will be counted on as a receiver out of the backfield and will see time at tight end to force defenses to account for his presence on the field.
"He's very agile in running the football," Hayes said. "He's a big guy that can make a move on you real quick. He can also run over the top of you. He has very strong, powerful legs."
Blue transferred to Gwynn Park for his sophomore season after spending his freshman year at DeMatha Catholic High School. Blue became a member of the Yellow Jackets' varsity squad immediately.
"DeMatha had a number of kids already and it looked like I was going to have to sit out my sophomore year [from the varsity]," Blue said of the transfer to Gwynn Park.
"I knew he was going to be a special kid," Hayes said about his first impression of Blue. "He had some things to learn at first -- just being in the right place at the right time, but he's on the right track right now."
Blue said he has seen his quickness and footwork improve over the past two seasons, but is still looking to get stronger and faster for his senior season.
"I noticed [the improvement] during last season when I led the team in tackles," Blue said. "I was getting to the ball quicker. I'm really trying to work on getting faster and stronger. I want to get my 40 [yard dash] down to 4.5 [seconds]. I'm trying, by the time I graduate, I want to bench 350 [pounds]."
Blue has already been invited to the Nike Penn State camp and opted to not attend the Nike Baltimore Combine. Instead, the junior made unofficial visits to Florida and N.C. State when the Nike Combine made its stop in Baltimore.
Hayes said N.C. State, Syracuse and Maryland have shown interest in Blue as a linebacker and expects the junior to receive his first collegiate offer before the beginning of his senior season.
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Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com. Mike can be reached at Michael.Loveday@espn.com
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