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WCU's Pressley shifts to defense
Coming out of North Buncombe High last fall, Randy Pressley joined Western Carolina’s football team and set his sights on becoming one of the Southern Conference’s premier quarterbacks.
Now he’s aiming to make those guys’ lives as miserable as possible.
After Zack Jaynes beat him out — “fair and square” in Pressley’s words — for Western’s starting quarterback job, the former Black Hawk decided he’d move to the other side of the ball as a “drop” linebacker for the Catamounts.
Pressley redshirted last season and will battle for the starting job vacated by Chris Collins, who was WCU’s second-leading tackler as a senior. Western’s spring drills begin on April 6.
“The decision was easy because I play both offense and defense,” said Pressley, who also had scholarship offers from several ACC schools when he was at North Buncombe. “I wanted to try at quarterback, and Western gave me the opportunity. Then with Chris Collins (leaving), they needed someone to take over his role. They asked me if I’d be interested and told me that if I did this, it would give me a great chance to compete for playing time.
“What it came down to is, do I want to sit out or do I want a chance to get out on the field and play,” Pressley said. “That’s probably one of the main reasons why I switched.”
WCU coach Dennis Wagner said the “drop” linebacker role is a good fit for Pressley’s skills.
“It’s a real active position on our defense, and Randy’s a real good athlete,” Wagner said. “In his high school days, he played safety and quarterback. He was a basketball player, and early in his high school career, he was a good baseball player.
“So it’s just putting a good athlete out in space that he can get big enough and physical enough to defend the run but athletic enough to cover a slot receiver or a tight end.”
While at North Buncombe, Pressley wowed WNC high school fans by passing and rushing for 2,839 yards and 32 touchdowns his senior season in 2008.
He said having made so many decisions with the ball in his hands will prove helpful at his new post.
“Being a former quarterback, knowing how they react and how they read and the blocking schemes, you can kind of play with the quarterback’s mind,” Pressley said. “You usually know what their tendencies are. You hope you can get them to where you can make a big play off it.”
Just because he made the move doesn’t mean Pressley will automatically get the starting job. In fact, he’s not the only former quarterback who’s vying to start at “drop” linebacker.
Pressley said Adam Hearns, who played quarterback and receiver before leaving WCU prior to last season, has returned to the Catamounts and is one of the players he’ll battle for the starting job.
“It’s pretty stiff competition,” Pressley said.
Though WCU is coming off a 2-9 season, including a 1-7 mark in the Southern Conference, Pressley said he’s got high hopes for this fall.
“What we’ve noticed is a tremendous gain in the weight room in size and strength,” Pressley said. “Everyone has gone up on their maxes by a lot. Everyone is working harder than ever.
“This kind of reminds me of high school when we went 3-9 (his junior year),” Pressley said. “The next year, we went 8-4 and made it to the second round (of the playoffs). This is just like that. Everyone’s working extra hard.”
By Tyler Norris Goode, Asheville Citizen-Times