By David Knox, Sports Editor
PINSON — The long and the short of it for the Pinson Valley offense?
The long is 6-foot-3, 185-pound LiAllen Dailey, just a junior but already a three-star recruit who holds a couple of Division I offers. He’s not quite in the category of Clay-Chalkville’s Nico Collins or Hewitt-Trussville’s Noah Igbinoghene, not yet anyway, but when college recruiters hit the northern suburbs looking for wide receivers, they’ve got three stops to make.
The short of it? That’s 5-7, 170-pound Torrey Hendrix. As important as Dailey will be for the Indians, the senior who goes by the Twitter handle of Mr_make_em_miss could be the critical piece to the puzzle.
The scatback, who runs a 4.51 40, started his junior year off blazing. He made one of the spectacular plays of the 2015 season in the opening win against Hartselle, seemingly going down but keeping himself off the turf on the body of another player, springing up and sprinting into the end zone. Think Mike Dyer.
The Indians charged out to a 3-0 record with Hendrix rolling up yards both running and catching the ball out of the backfield before running into juggernauts Gardendale and Clay-Chalkville. In the game against the Cougars, Hendrix was injured.
“He really wasn’t 100 percent for the rest of the year,” coach Matt Glover said.
He’s healthy now, but he needs to stay that way if the Indians are going to break through against a very tough schedule. The emergence of Khymel Chaverst at running back last season and the promise of freshman Jay Sharp meant Glover and offensive coordinator Jon Clements could devise a hybrid role for their open-field weapon.
“Torrey can play running back, if we need him, but right now we’ve got him at receiver,” Glover said. Hendrix brings many special qualities to the team besides athletic ability. One of those is his football smarts.
“Coach Clements was talking about the other day that during spring they were in there doing some film work and he said he was just messing around one day and he got up and called out a play. Torrey stood up and knew what everybody on the field was supposed to be doing – from X to Z, center, guard, tackle everybody. Probably knows our offense better than I do. A smart kid, and a good kid. No character issues. He’s learning how to be a leader.
“If we had a bunch of Torrey Hendrixes, my job would be a lot easier.”
Glover’s job is going to be a lot easier if he keeps him healthy, too. He would like to find a way to get him 20-25 touches a game. It’ll be easier to do that if he’s catching the ball in space and not just pounding the rock. Glover said he’s still probably the Indians’ best running back and one of the best receivers.
“He’s athletic and has really good feet to go with those footballs smarts. He’s a burst guy – when he stops and starts, when he starts back he’s just as fast. Can get up to speed really quick. He’s shifty and he’s strong.”
Another plus as Hendrix makes a transition to running passing routes from the slot, or wherever he lines up, comes from a coaching addition.
“Lee Guess came on this year, so we have two receiver coaches now (along with Nick Andrews). They’ve done a really good job on the technique of how to run routes. So, Torrey’s gotten really good at learning how to set up defenders. It’s helped all our receivers, learning the little nuances of running routes. You can be the fastest guy in the world, but if you don’t run good routes you’re not going to get open.”
There’s not a lot of big-school interest in Hendrix now. He holds an offer from Kentucky Christian University, an NAIA school in Grayson, Ky., near the West Virginia border that plays in the Mid-South Conference. Troy, Mercer, Florida Tech and West Florida have shown some interest.
Like his coach, Hendrix feels his strengths are his playmaking ability in the open field and his versatility.
“I like to get the ball in space. I can play anywhere on the field, I block, I play hard and give 110 percent every time I’m on the field every play.
“I still need work on my route-running and my hands because of moving to the slot. I’m still going to be at running back every now and then. I’ve got to be more consistent at catching the ball. I’ve got to get in better shape, too,” he said with a laugh. “Running all those deep routes and all that, so I got to get in better shape.”