Weems looks forward to increased workload

The number of carries Daniel Weems averaged while helping Center Grove achieve gridiron perfection last fall is a number likely to rise this season.

Maybe it’s 15 totes of the football, or dare we say 20, as the Trojans prepare to defend their Class 6A state championship. Whatever the assigned workload, Weems is eager to emerge from the long shadow of the school’s career rushing leader, 2020 Indiana Mr. Football Carson Steele.

“Now the game is in my hands, and I can really show other teams who’s here and who’s ready to play,” said Weems, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound senior who ran for 875 yards last season and has quietly generated 2,129 during his career in the Trojans’ backfield.

“I’m not so much worried about individual accolades. I’m more focused on the season and just finishing off my senior year right with a state championship.”

Though he’s the preseason focal point of the Trojans’ vaunted ground attack for the first time, it might be easy to forget Weems has experience filling that role.

Hamstring and foot injuries sidelined Steele for all but three games during the 2019 season. Enter Weems, who amassed 1,252 yards rushing, including a career-best 233 and three touchdowns in Center Grove’s 35-21 victory over Lawrence North.

In all, Weems eclipsed the 100-yard mark on six occasions as a 10th-grader, helping a young team finish as 6A runner-up.

“Everyone was upset and nervous at first, but Daniel was the one who led us back,” said Steele, who will play at Ball State this season. “After two or three games, everyone settled in knowing there was a guy we could ride with.”

Every successful running back passing through the Center Grove program in Eric Moore’s 22 seasons as coach is unique in one way or another. Size, speed, durability and running style are only a few of the ways history distinguishes Jonny Zwitt from Max Norris or Titus McCoy from Steele.

In the case of Weems, it’s what he sees when handed the pigskin and his ability to react accordingly.

“My biggest strength is my ability to see the hole and just go,” Weems said. “And being patient, too. Sometimes that’s hard to do, because some plays open up and some don’t. But I’m definitely prepared. Whatever is handed to me is going to happen. If I get 20 carries, then I get 20 carries.”

Weems is also a trusted receiver, having made 14 catches as a sophomore and four a year ago. On May 7, he received his first Division I college offer (Eastern Kentucky), though more programs are likely to step forward as the season progresses.

He’ll be one of many running options for Center Grove along with senior quarterback Tayven Jackson and fellow backs Brandon Wheat, Micah Coyle, Drew Wheat and others.

“I want (Weems) to have between 12-15 carries and three catches a game,” Moore said. “Daniel has great vision and reads the line as well as anyone we’ve ever had. Running backs have to have great hip flexibility, and he can be directed to Point A and then flip his hips and run through the B gap.”

Center Grove opens the season Aug. 20 at Warren Central. Coincidentally, one of Weems’ best games as a junior was in a 38-0 regional win against the Warriors — 113 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

Steele describes his former backfield mate as the consummate team player. Weems, he said, always made it a point last season to celebrate with Steele every time the latter scored a touchdown instead of sulking over not having his own number called.

“And I always tried to do the same when he scored,” Steele said. “Daniel is just a great all-around guy, but once you throw the pads on, he means serious business. I’m excited for him to be the man back there this season.”