Chargers’ McGhee even more versatile

06241452 Mike McGheeFans of the Oxford High Chargers are likely to rub their eyes when they see Mike McGhee on the field this fall.

Oxford’s senior standout has done some serious body adjustments, going from 255 pounds to a more slender 225.

The weight loss wasn’t needed as much as it was desired by McGhee, who is hoping to garner even more than the two scholarship offers he currently has from Arkansas State and Hawaii.

“I’m going to try and maintain this weight for the season,” said McGhee, who has still been a terror in the weight room during summer conditioning drills. “I think it’s just A-OK. I feel like I can move better with the smaller skill guys now without the extra weight.”

McGhee has always been a great jumbo athlete able to run with most players on the field. He’s played defense and some offense so contact has never been a problem. One thing that has improved during 7-on-7 drills is McGhee’s ability to cover running backs and wide receivers with the weight loss.

“My freshman and sophomore year, I just played ‘beat-em-up’ football—just tackle to tackle,” McGhee said. “Now coaches want to see me work sideline to sideline in order to go to the next level. I’m going to try and work on that this last year. I’m going to play some inside, outside, pretty much do it all this year. If it’s a good running team, I’ll be inside. If it’s a good throwing team, they may have me rushing the quarterback.”

Steve Herring, Oxford’s defensive coordinator, has been thrilled with what McGhee’s weight loss has meant for him and the team. Herring feels that McGhee is much more versatile now, and it has shown in 7-on-7 practices so far.

“Mike has worked really hard since the end of track,” Herring said. “We just figured he was going to go run at some of these camps this summer, and we wanted him to be light to get the best time he could get. Now he’s going to gain some before the start of the year, but he does look good.

“With the extra weight off, we found something else he can do: Mike can play in space. He can get out there in zone coverage and identify threats and then do what he has to do,” Herring added. “He is as physical of a 7-on-7 player as we have had here. He and John Frink are the two most physical guys we’ve had in that area. He definitely gives us a physical presence out there on the field.”

Johnny Hill, Oxford’s head coach, remembers when McGhee was placed on the varsity squad when he was freshman. He said the experience gained the last three years is a big key to what his defense can accomplish this year.

“What can you see more about Michael? He was green as could be as a ninth grader,” Hill recalled. “Contact has never been a problem; it was him learning the scheme and figuring where he fit. It took a while for him to learn where he fit. He knows that now. You get that through experience. This will be his fourth year starting at linebacker for us. The experience that he’s gained in the last three years, you can’t really put a price tag on it.”

There is no substitute for leadership on a team that has the goal of winning a state title, and McGhee offers plenty of that for his teammates.

“He’s a great kid, great football player, but he’s probably a better individual,” Hill said. “He’s won three state championships in the shot put. That’s pretty amazing. He’s always been strong. He explodes on that shot put and that’s the reason he gets it out there. That’s why he’s going to be tough to beat again in the shot put.”

As for the weight loss, Hill, like Herring, said it would make his defense better when the season gets rolling in August.

“I think it’s going to make him a lot better because he is more mobile,” Hill said. “He is our rock, and he is such a good leader out there. You can’t put a price tag on his leadership ability. He’s not demanding. He just gets the job done, and his leadership role is invaluable.”

Oxford fell just short of winning a state championship last year. McGhee said that he hasn’t forgotten and has used the loss to Picayune in the Class 5A state title game as motivation to get better.

“I feel like we have to pick up where we left off last year,” McGhee said. “We have some unfinished business from last year. I feel like we have a target on us because we went undefeated until we got to state. Some people say we’re not clutch, but who cares what they think? It’s been the same motivation since day one for me. Nothing has changed. I just go in each day and try to get better at something each and every day.”

So far this summer, McGhee has been pleased with the play of the defensive backs. He’s also glad to have his friend, Thomas Allen, next to him in the middle again.

“Our defensive backs pretty much come in and go to work,” McGhee said. “I feel like our secondary can guard pretty much anyone we play. They can cover one-on-one, which would leave more people in the box or to rush the quarterback.

“Thomas comes in every day, working with the same mindset. The linebackers, we have to finish what we started last year. That’s what we break it down on everyday, whatever we’re doing,” McGhee added. “Our d-line is going to be pretty good. We’ve got Korbin (Harmon), Nick Sisk, who is a sophomore this year, and Robert Farris. I feel like any lineman we play, we can get past him and get to the quarterback.”
Twitter: @oxfordcitizenjd

About John Davis

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