By Gabriel Stovall
FAYETTEVILLE, Ga. — You’ve got to do something pretty special to get a phone call from an NFL football player after a Friday night game.
Starr’s Mill B-back Rico Frye did just that two Fridays ago when he went for 238 yards on the ground against the Panthers’ county rival McIntosh which prompted former Starr’s Mill and Georgia Tech standout Zach Laskey to buzz Frye’s phone.
It was Frye’s fourth straight 200-yard rushing performance — this past Friday his 202 yards on 10 carries against Morrow made number five — and as impressive as that was, it wasn’t the reason for a Starr’s Mill legend to find Frye’s phone number.
Frye’s McIntosh outing shattered Laskey’s former school record by 10 yards. And now the sophomore has cold, hard evidence as to why he can be reasonably compared to the former Starr’s Mill star.
“It’s cool, man, to be compared to someone in the NFL,” Frye said. “I beat his record and that’s cool because he’s somebody, you know, I looked up to him. It was exciting. He’s got a little sister at Starr’s Mill right now, so it’s fun that I can get to talk about it to her a little bit.”
Frye’s just having fun, period in this new-old jet wing-T offense he’s in — new to Frye who, in just his second year at the school, was used working out of spread sets from last year — and old to the school in general since the offensive scheme is a throwback to early Starr’s Mill squads.
And Frye admits he wasn’t completely sold on the idea of changing up this year. After all, he rushed for 1,138 yards as a freshman in the spread option attack that resembled what the Auburn Tigers of the SEC run. But now, after breaking the 1,000 yard mark again, and putting himself on pace to break the school’s career rushing record next year, he’s starting to warm up to the change.
“I mean, I was kind of worried (about the change),” he said. “I rushed for over 1,000 the season before, and after my first two games I was a little frustrated and wondering if I’d be able to rush for as many yards. But I stayed patient.”
And the patience paid off, because it gave coach Chad Phillips time to make the right blocking scheme tweaks to spring Frye into the history books.
“Yeah, he didn’t really do well and was disgusted and down about it at first,” Phillips said. But the offensive line began to get a little bit better feel and more comfortable with what we were doing. He’s doing a great job now, and we’re pleased with how he’s progressing.”
The biggest changes, Phillips said, came in teach a whole new blocking mentality to his trench men. Last year’s spread look called for lots of zone blocking and a running back who could make people miss.
But now, the success of Starr’s Mill’s offense is predicated around hat-on-a-hat blocking to set up the running of fullback traps, jet sweeps and the proper execution of kick-out blocks. It also means the A and B backs now must learn to perfect a north-south running style. Instead of the jitterbug tailback, Starr’s Mill now looks for the one-cut-and-go kind of runner.
What it’s done is made Frye more versatile, Phillips said.
“I think this offense has made him a much better back,” Phillips said. “The coaches are looking at him on film now, and they can see from last year how he could make people miss — and he can still do that. But now, he’s able to bust it up through there on the line. He’s also got to be a better blocker as well when he doesn’t run the ball.”
And people are starting to notice.
“South Carolina has started sending me letters,” Frye said. Georgia’s been hard on me. Florida State is asking for my Hudl.com page.”
Phillips believes it’s all just the beginning for Frye if he continues to stay healthy both in mind and body.
“He’s getting attention from all over the place,” he said. “Of course, they can’t really talk to you like that until you’re junior. But if he can continue on this pace and avoid some injuries, he’ll be on track to break that career record middle of next year. That would give him an additional year and a half to really put that thing where I’m not sure any one else can reach it.”
Right now, Frye’s eye-popping stat line includes 1,153 rushing yards — he’s already eclipsed his 2014 total — and 18 touchdowns with an unreal 10.3 yard-per-carry average.
And believe it or not, he’s got another guy in his backfield in senior Dion Munerlyn who’s just as effective.
“It takes a load off of me to have Dion back there,” Frye said. “You saw against Drew how we were killing them with the A-Back jet with Dion, and then when they adjusted to that, it opened up the inside run for me. They started keying on him and forgot about me. Dion’s a leader and I learn from him and we feed off each other, on and off the field.”
But make no mistake, it is Frye right now who’s getting much of the accolades. And Phillips said he realizes that half the battle of putting him in position to maximize his potential his keeping his head grounded despite all the attention.
“Our coaches do a great job talking to him and explaining to him that being our so-called star player, it can be tough on him,” Phillips said. “It reflects on how he behaves in the classroom, at school, in the locker room, everywhere. But I think he knows the responsibility that comes along with that position. And I think he’s accepted it and we’re real proud of where he’s going with it.”
FRYE-DAY NIGHT DOMINANCE.
WEIGHT: 185 pounds
40-YARD TIME: 4.7 seconds
And Here’s a look at Rico Frye’s biggest rushing performances of the year:
Sept. 11 vs. Dutchtown: 22 carries, 201 yards, 9.1 avg. 1 TD.
Sept. 19 vs. Forest Park: 11 carries, 200 yards, 19.0 avg.
Oct. 2 vs. Drew: 20 carries, 208 yards, 10.4 avg. 3 TDs.
Oct. 9 vs. McIntosh: 20 carries, 238 yards, 11.9 avg. 4 TDs.
Oct. 16 vs. Morrow: 10 carries, 202 yards. 20.2 avg. 3 TDs.