Nipomo’s JJ Ramirez wasn’t happy with the 4.8 40-yard dash time he ran at a football camp early this summer.
With an increased role in the offense expected for the 2016 season, the senior knew he needed to be faster.
When the team held its combine last week, he was. Ramirez ran a 4.6 40-yard dash, the fastest time on the team.
Ramirez, who rushed for 750 yards (5.5-yard average) and eight touchdowns last season as a compliment to Antonio Navarro, is the most established of the three running backs expected to get carries. He expects to be at the head of a rushing attack poised to increase the nearly 200 yards-per-game average put up last season.
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But there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to the other two Titan rushers: Isaac Bausley and Michael Jordan.
Bausley, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior, has yet to get a hand off in a game. As a junior, Bausley spent most of his time tackling running backs.
“Over the years, I have been going to offensive groups to play running back in practice. But this is the year I actually might start,” Bausley said. “I’m pretty pumped and excited for it.”
If Bausley is a mystery, Jordan is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum.
Jordan, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior, last played football as a sophomore on Nipomo’s 2014 CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division championship team when he ran for 350 yards and scored seven touchdowns in seven games. After transferring to Pioneer Valley and skipping football last season, he is back.
“We are working on getting (Jordan) back into shape,” head coach Tony Dodge said. “He’s a work in progress.”
Jordan is enrolled in school, but Nipomo is still waiting to hear from the CIF-SS to make sure he is eligible to play the first game of the season. Luckily for him, the playbook hasn’t changed.
If Jordan does clear the administrative hurdles, he will bolster an offense that will have a first-year quarterback — either senior Spencer Pool or junior Nicolas Robledo. Jordan’s presence would also allow the Titans offense to use speedy Ramirez more in the passing game at wide receiver on top of his role as a defensive back.
“We will put (Ramirez) wherever,” Dodge said. “We just want to get him the ball.”
Up front, Nipomo returns an experienced offensive line led by second-team all-league left tackle Matthew O’Henley, who added 25 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame.
“We got a lot of big guys who know what they are doing that have been around and been together for a long time,” said O’Henley, who is also vying for playing time at middle linebacker.
A few of the questions surrounding Nipomo will be answered when the team takes on Paso Robles in a scrimmage Friday ahead of the opener against Pioneer Valley on Aug. 26. It will be the first test against one of the bigger, well-established programs on the Central Coast. Winning against those programs is a point of emphasis again this season, Dodge said.
If that happens, it will almost certainly be the running game that gets them there.
“Our goals in the weight room are beat Lompoc and beat (Arroyo Grande), besides winning league, obviously,” Dodge said. “Those are the top perennial programs in the area, and if we want to be there, we need to start beating them.”