|3/7||Div. IV||All-American Conference Blue Tier|
When talking to Dan Graziano, you find him to be part receiver, part wildcat, part Indian and part Italian.
Now, he’s a full-blooded quarterback — again.
Graziano took over the controls of the Girard High football team for the first time as a freshman, leading the Indians to a 9-1 record, but no playoff.
The next year, with Adam Charles returned healthy as a senior signalcaller, Graziano played receiver with some “wildcat” duties sprinkled in.
When Charles graduated, Graziano, as a junior, took over the duties and guided the team to a 6-4 finish.
Stepping into a leadership role takes a special person, especially as a freshman. Despite an unnerving first series in Graziano’s first game as a ninth-grader, he handled it well.
“I didn’t know what to expect because I had never been in a varsity game,” Graziano said of the 47-12 win over Salem on Aug. 22, 2008.
“But I was prepared and we managed to pull it out.”
He didn’t have many catches as a receiver the next year, but Graziano did have three touchdowns in just three carries out of a formation utilizing a running back in a “wildcat” role.
Girard made the second round of the playoffs, but lost to Woodridge to finish the Indians’ 2009 season.
Now, as a senior, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Graziano sits in the driver’s seat of the program’s 2011 model.
His versatility, resiliency, poise and maturity should serve him well.
In Girard’s season-opening 49-14 win over Akron Manchester, Graziano rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns he was 7 of 8 passing for 101 yards.
Having been a student of quarterbacks coach Nick Cochran as a freshman and having been a receiver/running back, too, should help Graziano’s foundation.
When Cochran replaced Bud McSuley as head coach after the 2009 season, Graziano’s association with his old position coach didn’t change.
“I was working with him as a freshman, so we’ve got a pretty good relationship,” the senior said of Cochran. “I know, sometimes, pretty much what he’s going to call and how we’re going to run the game.”
Graziano’s propensity for scrambling could mean trouble for defenses, especially when the quarterback has options.
“I like to move around in the pocket,” he said, noting that receivers Branden Byrd, A.J. DeVore or younger brother Jordan Graziano are likely outlets this year in place of now-departed Landon Smith. “I know every route and where everybody’s going,” Dan Graziano said of his understanding of Girard’s no-huddle spread offense.
Considering Cochran’s penchant for passing, Graziano could put the ball in the air quite a bit.
Throw second-year starter Ahmad Eggleston in the mix as running back and the Indians have the potential to follow their recent pattern of missing the playoffs, then making the playoffs.
This season would be one of those “make” years.
Against Manchester, Eggleston ran for 227 yards on 18 carries and scored five touchdowns: four on the ground and one by air.
“Everybody on the team has high expectations,” said Graziano, who mentioned Bobby Ovesny and current assistant coach Matt Zuppo as former Girard quarterbacks he watched as a kid.
“Me and my cousin used to come down [to the stadium] every game, so I remember paying attention to those two.”
Ovesny is still the Trumbull County leader.
The fact that Graziano is an infielder on the high school baseball team legitimizes the tendency to paint him as being finesse.
Coupled that with his instincts and football skills and the Indians should be in fine hands.
Cochran described Graziano’s qualities.
“First of all, he’s a 3.6 GPA student. You’ve got to be a good student in our offense because we rely so much on him making the proper checks and things like that, so he studies the game. Secondly, he’s a great leader and he’s a great competitor. All he wants to do is win.”
Graziano recalled the August, 2008 game when he was thrown into the QB role as a freshman.
“Everybody was older than me, so everybody was telling me to relax. They knew I was nervous.”
That shouldn’t be the case anymore.