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Football: Offensive move – Uselton finds home at receiver

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, November 22, 2017
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Running in New Spot

RUNNING IN NEW SPOT – Decatur’s Alec Uselton makes his way upfield against Abilene Wylie. The senior has thrived this season after moving from defensive back to wide receiver. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Alec Uselton wasn’t always one of Decatur’s top receivers.

In fact, Uselton didn’t always play offense. Up until this year, Uselton was a member of the Eagles’ secondary, trying to break up passes rather than catch them.

But this past offseason, Uselton and the coaching staff decided it was time to make a change. And after last Friday’s bi-district playoff victory over Abilene Wylie, if there were ever any doubts about the switch, they were put to rest.

Uselton hauled in nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown in Decatur’s win and has quickly become a top target for quarterback Wilson Hicks during the most critical time in the season.

“I’ve always liked offense a lot better,” Uselton said. “I just feel more confident on offense. When I have the ball I just feel good. I like to go out there and make plays.”

After Decatur’s top receiver Dane Fitzgerald went down with a season-ending injury earlier in the year, Uselton, being one of only two senior receivers remaining, knew he would have to pick up the slack. With Fitzgerald sidelined nursing a broken sternum, all eyes shifted to Uselton and his counterpart on the outside, Mario Reyes.

“It was a pretty devastating experience when Dane went out,” Uselton said. “Mario and I thought ‘Man ,we really have to step it up.’ And that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Through 11 games, Uselton leads the Eagles in receiving with 937 yards and six touchdowns on 71 receptions. Although losing Fitzgerald was an obstacle for Decatur’s high-flying, spread offense to overcome, Uselton has done his part to soften the blow.

“Whenever Dane went down, we knew someone was going to have to step up,” Hicks said. “We weren’t sure who it was going to be, but Alec stepped up big time and has become one of our better receivers.”

Decatur coach Mike Fuller said ultimately the decision to move Uselton from one side of the ball to the other boiled down to a couple of things. In years past, several of the Eagles routinely played both ways, getting snaps on offense and defense. That changed this season with Fuller and the coaching staff focusing on training players to just play either offense or defense. With Uselton coming off what Fuller described as a trying 2016 campaign as a defensive back, both he and the coaches decided it was time to shake things up.

“Last year was a challenging year for him,” Fuller said. “It is for a lot of juniors when they aren’t starting and playing every down like they want to. He’s handled it well and he’s worked hard.”

Uselton’s move to wide receiver couldn’t have come at a better time for Decatur.

Without Fitzgerald, who entered 2017 as the Eagles’ leading returning receiver, Decatur needed someone to make plays on the outside. Usleton fit the bill perfectly.

“He’s done a great job,” Fuller said. “He has the most catches on our team and has probably been the most consistent as far as getting open. He’s a tough kid.”

Uselton was Hicks’ primary target in Decatur’s win over Wylie last week, with the southpaw looking his way several times, especially on critical downs. Whether it was a catch in traffic or fighting for extra yards after the catch, Uselton has developed a rapport with his quarterback that is proving to be key for the Eagles down the stretch.

He may not have envisioned ending his senior year lined up on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, but in a short amount of time Uselton has become a key cog in the Decatur offense,

“The thing about Alec is I don’t think he’s afraid of anything,” Hicks said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing or who he’s lined up against, he’s going to go and get the job done.”

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