Thursday, October 10, 2013
As far as no-brainers go, shifting Kalan Ritchie to defensive end full time was one for Goose Creek football coach Chuck Reedy.
And when Aikeem Gadsden proved he was completely back from a knee injury that truncated his 2012 season, that was all the convincing Reedy needed to make the move permanent for Ritchie, who he calls “probably the best player on our team.” Ritchie is a South Carolina Gamecocks commitment.
“(Aikeem) is getting back healthy and playing very well at tight end,” Reedy said. “He’s a very good player. Now, we only use Kalan on offense when we use two tight ends.”
Ritchie (6-7, 230) brings the heat back to the defensive front after the Gators lost two Div. I players off last year’s team, Gerald Turner (USC) and Mike Myers (East Carolina). The front four had proven to be less salty than it had been the last couple of years.
Some of that toughness is returning, Gators defensive coordinator Chris Candor said.
“Kalan gives us length and athletic ability, and aggressiveness and a great leader as well,” Candor added. “His teammates respond to him.
“Hopefully he’ll be the leader of our defense the rest of the season.”
Two weeks ago in a battle of Top 5 teams, Ritchie was the best defensive player on the field most of the time for the Gators. He was in on 15 tackles, a total that included two sacks, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup in a 35-21 win over then No. 4 Dutch Fork.
He figures to only get better and more disruptive as the Gators plunge into the home stretch of the regular season in the coming weeks. More repetitions at reading keys should assure that.
“He’s only played (DE) six weeks his entire life,” Candor said. “He’s still just learning.”
But he’s taken to the position like a Gator to water. Ritchie certainly has a chance to make a more profound impact in what’s going on in the game at his defensive end spot. In 2012, he caught six passes for 79 yards and had just one catch for 11 yards as a sophomore.
“He’s very excited about it,” Candor said. “It’s something that gives him a lot of excitement after playing tight end the last two seasons. He’s got a lot of emotion and a lot of energy. It fits him well to be a defensive guy. On defense, you don’t have to be quite as controlled.”
“He’s got a great motor,” Reedy added. “We’re all in with him being over there.”