Staff Photo: John Bohn Dacula's Alex Armah, a tight end, will play in the Gwinnett all-star football game on Saturday, December 17th.
Alex Armah wasn't sure what to make of first-year Dacula head coach Jared Zito.
Zito took over the program in January and revamped the offense, installing his version of the spread system.
Armah had played mostly defense for the Falcons last season, but here was Zito telling him he would play offense now.
Armah was going to play offense, but he was going to have to play a hybrid position of tight end. So not only would he have to learn how to block from a three-point stance, he would also have to learn how to run routes from the slot position or block out of the backfield.
"I was like who does this guy think he is?" Armah recalled. "But you know, he's a good guy. He has pretty good ideas and we trusted him. He led us to the third round of the playoffs, so it worked out pretty well."
It turns out Zito's vision for Armah in Dacula's offense may be his ticket to the college level.
So many teams are going to spread-style offenses. They need a player who can play tight end, slot receiver or H-back. It's a position Armah excelled at to earn second-team all-county honors this year. He'll play in today's Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star game as one last chance to prove his versatility.
"I think it's a great experience. You get to meet players from all over the region," Armah said. "I think it will help me with the recruiting to give me one more shot to show what I have on the field."
When Zito took over the program he first noticed the 6-foot, 200-pound Armah as a candidate to play the hybrid tight end position. Armah played linebacker for the Falcons last season, so Zito knew he would be athletic enough to play the new position.
"We were trying to put our best players on the field," Zito said. "He's just a real smart kid, real coachable. I'm impressed with his ability to want to block. That's tough to teach a kid, but he's a just a team kid. He wants to win."
Armah played about 95 percent of the snaps on offense and defense this year. To get prepared for the Ironman style football, he went through Zito's conditioning program called 40-40. Armah started out running five 40-yard runs a week during the summer. By the time the season started, he was doing 40 40-yard sprints in one session.
The conditioning helped as Armah collected 60 tackles (third on the team) and three sacks on defense. He also made seven catches for 73 yards and three touchdowns on offense, but his biggest role was blocking.
"If we had a flaw coaching wise, it was probably that we didn't get him the ball enough," Zito said. "We probably didn't take advantage of the mismatch he brings with a big body that can run and catch."
Armah runs a 4.68-second 40-yard dash, squats 465 pounds and bench presses 350. He not only plays a variety positions, but several sports. He's a power forward on the basketball team and throws the shot put and discus in track and field.
Armah's speed, strength and athleticism make him attractive to college recruiters. He's received interest from several Division I-FCS (formerly I-AA) schools.
"A lot of people don't want to have to take out a tight end to put in a slot receiver," Zito said. "They want to keep the same personnel on the field at the college level and he gives you that versatility."
It's been nearly a year since Armah met Zito and found out he would be changing positions. He was a little uncertain about the transition at first, but it seemed to work best for Armah and the team. Dacula went 9-4 and reached the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA state playoffs for the first time since 2005.
For Armah, it has opened several recruiting doors that might not been there before as just a linebacker.
"It was tough (learning) at first, but Coach Zito is a good coach and he coached us up. I got the flow pretty well," Armah said. "When a recruiter sees I can play more than one position, he's more likely to show more interest in me because they can move me around in their offense and defense."