His name is Gunn. Kyle Gunn.
He’s a two-year starter and without question the player who pulls the trigger in the Rangers’ offense.
“Number 1, he’s really fast and he’s quick,” James said of his 5-10, 160-pound senior quarterback. “We run the wishbone, but a variety of formations go with that. We run wishbone plays out of the shotgun and from under center.
“Kyle does a really good job of reading the option and he’s gotten really proficient this year of getting the ball to the right guy. He’s done a good job of making decisions.”
Running the option is all about trying to outnumber opponents at the point of attack, and having a quarterback who can run that style of offense, James said, is “kind of like having a good point guard in basketball.”
“A good point guard knows who to get the ball to,” the coach said. “Kyle gets to full speed real quick. He’s explosive. If whoever's coming after him doesn’t get him right now, they’re in trouble.”
Through five games Gunn has led Northwood to four wins, including 1-0 in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference. The Rangers went 6-0 in the TAAC last year and are favored to defend their title.
Gunn, the younger brother of Scott Gunn, who played receiver and defensive back on St. Francis de Sales’ state championship team a few year ago, is on pace to put up big numbers this season.
Last fall, he rushed for 807 yards and 15 touchdowns and passed for 673 yards. This year, Gunn said he would like to both throw and run for 1,000 yards, which should be attainable.
“Everything’s like in slow motion this year,” Gunn said. “I can read the defense better, just from practicing harder and studying.”
Following last Friday’s 52-13 rout of Troy Christian, Gunn was 32-for-53 passing for 555 yards and six touchdowns and four interceptions for the season. He’s also rushed for a team-high 442 yards, five touchdowns and eight two-point conversions on 71 carries.
Gunn threw for 171 yards and ran for 138 yards on 11 carries against Troy Christian.
“This year he’s completing passes a little bit better and he’s doing a good job of protecting the football,” James said. “He kind of picked up where he left off last year. We leaned on him a little more last year because of injuries. This year we’re more healthy, which lets us spread the ball around more.”
Gunn played receiver for his Northwood Middle School team but ended up at quarterback, he said, “because it’s more fun.” He backed up Northwood starter Andy Zablocki his freshman and sophomore seasons.
“I just like playing football,” Gunn said. “It doesn’t matter to me where I play. I just play my hardest.”
Gunn improved his skills by attending passing leagues and two football camps at Bowling Green State University over the summer. Gunn ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the BGSU combine.
“At the combines I went as a wide receiver, probably because of my size,” Gunn said. “They were interested in me as a wide receiver. I was shocked. I didn’t know I had that potential. I did good with my speed, and I can catch. I probably need to work on my route running because I’ve never really done it.”
No one questions Gunn’s speed or athleticism.
Last spring, competing for the Rangers’ track and field team, Gunn high-jumped, ran the short sprints, both hurdles events and was on the 4x100 relay team.
He was the TAAC champ in the high jump, the 200 and the 4x100, and broke the school record in the 110 hurdles at the district meet. He also broke the school’s long jump mark, leaping 19-8 – on his first attempt.
As for playing quarterback, Gunn said his decision-making is much better this year.
“Last year I was keeping the ball every time and getting greedy, thinking of pulling it in every time,” he said of running the option. “This year I’m handing it off to the fullback and getting more yards out of it.”
The Rangers have rushed for 1,536 yards in five games. Their second-leading rusher is sophomore halfback Zach Bermejo, with 349 yards on 38 carries. Senior fullback Nate James has 39 carries for 268 yards, and senior fullback Justin Grindle has 233 yards on 25 carries.
Gunn credits Rangers quarterbacks coach Matt Donegan, a former Northwood QB, for teaching him to make better decisions with the football.
“He has taught me a lot the last two years,” Gunn said. “He teaches me how to read the option better and he works on my throwing mechanics. I’m a lot better than I was last year. I’m training hard and throwing every day, working on my mechanics.”
James said one of the main reasons for the Rangers’ success this season is that no one worries about who gets the credit or the yards or the touchdowns. Gunn agreed that the 2008 squad is a tight group.
“I like our senior leadership and our confidence,” he said. “Everyone gets along together well and that makes us trust each other. We’re kind of upset we didn’t make the playoffs last year, so that’s a goal, to get in the playoffs this season.”