Cooley's switch pays off, as Boyle senior goes from tight end to guard

November 18, 2003|JILL ERWIN

Most players would feel a tinge of unhappiness at being asked to move from a pass-catching position to a spot on the offensive line for their senior year.

Boyle County's Zach Cooley didn't think twice.

When coaches asked Cooley if he'd be willing to move from tight end to guard, Cooley said it was never a consideration to say no.

"Coach (Chuck) Smith talked to me one day before practice and he asked me if I'd do that for the team," Cooley said. "It didn't bother me one bit to go from tight end to guard because if that's what it takes for us to win, then I was willing to do anything. I never stopped to think when he asked me."

Now he's a vital cog on Boyle's offensive line as the Rebels prepare for their regional championship game against Pulaski County here Friday as they pursue a fifth straight state title.


Cooley has found a new home on the line. Boyle assistant coach Chris Mason said the Rebels originally thought about moving Jeremy Enlow from center, but he's done so well there that they didn't want to change.

Cooley said Enlow helped him the most in his adjustment.

"When I first moved to the guard, there were plays when I didn't have a clue as to what was going on," Cooley said. "I could turn and ask Jeremy and every time he would tell me what to do, how to do it, when to do it. There's still times when I might have to turn and ask Jeremy what's going on, and every time he tells me what to do."

Mason says Cooley was a natural for the move because of his experience blocking as a tight end. "Blocking as a tight end helped me because it wasn't something totally new to me," Cooley said. "It was different because of the size difference on people, but I didn't have to start back at square one when I moved positions."

As Boyle prepares for its regional championship game, Mason said Cooley continues to improve.

"For us to have another shot at winning this thing, Zach was going to have to move," Mason said. "He's a very unselfish kid. He's a tough kid and we really focused on fundamentals and mechanics with Zach because he hasn't had it for three years like everyone else has. We just have to cram it all into one season, and he's done a real good job with it."

Switch hasn't been easy

Cooley said it hasn't been easy. The 6-4, 190 pound Cooley has had to learn a new position amidst the pressure of being the front line for Boyle's offense.

"It was a big adjustment," Cooley said. "It's a lot different game because it's less of a speed thing and more of a strength thing. It was a big adjustment for me from going out on routes to having to stay in every play and block to let other people make the plays.

"The coaches have always wanted a quick offensive line. I'm not big by no means, but I think that I do have some quickness and a little bit of speed, which makes getting my blocks easier downfield."

Not only has he fit in, but he's even taken on a leadership role. Enlow is the main player in charge of making blocking calls for the line, but Mason said Cooley also does more than his fair share.

"If you're going to have a good offensive line, they've got to communicate and they've got to know who they're blocking and they've got to know where they're going," Mason said. "We're so fortunate to have Jeremy at center to make those calls, but Zach makes a lot of our calls, too. Zach's done a good job of learning the fronts and the stunts that linebackers throw at us and he does a great job of communicating."

Cooley seems to have adjusted well. He's even adopted the mantra of an offensive lineman: we just want to help the team.

"We know we're not going to be catching the passes or running for the touchdowns, but if we weren't doing what we were doing, then nobody would get any credit," Cooley said. "It makes no difference to me who gets the credit."

The true test comes when Cooley is asked which position he'd rather play. If Smith walked up to him right now and offered him a chance to go back to tight end, would he rather do that?

"Right now I'd be an offensive guard because I've done it since summer practices," Cooley said. "I like that spot because I've learned what to do and learned how to do it. But if they come to me and ask me to play tight end, I'd play tight end if that's what they wanted me to do. But I'm an offensive guard and I'm content with being an offensive guard."

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