How would you describe him as an athlete?
He’s not a very big guy, but he’s an extremely physical guy. I think those two things make him unique. There’s a lot of fast, little guys, but not all of them are as physical as Eric is. He’s a very physical player offensively and defensively.
He’s spoken about the improvement he’s made defensively this season. What do you attribute that to?
He never really logged a lot of practice time or playing time on defense until this year. We’ve practiced him and played him on both sides, and he basically doesn’t leave the field for us defensively. He is a great press corner and a good man cover guy, and we’re able to rest him offensively. Defensively, he’s probably made a greater impact for us because we play a lot of man coverage and he pretty much takes away the receiver on his side of the field that he’s matched up against.
He’s also our fastest, quickest player on either side of the ball no matter who we have on the field. In many instances, he’s the fastest quickest guy in the game no matter who the opponent has on the field. He brings a piece of playing the game that not everybody has and can’t be taught or developed. It’s just explosive speed.
What kind of an impact does it make when he’s the fastest person on the field?
Offensively, a guy like him needs just a little bit of help. We need our front and our fullback to get him past the first level of the defense and into the second and third level, and when he gets that far, it’s just getting interesting. We’re not great this year at Canton McKinley, at least haven’t been through the first five games, and we haven’t helped him as much as we need to. We just need to get him into the second and third level of the defense and then he’s able to be amazing. He’s worked hard for what he’s gotten and we haven’t helped him as much as I wish we had.
Is there a play or performance that you’ve seen from him that stands out?
Not any one play. I saw him play before I coached him this year. I saw him as a spectator. There are things in his highlight tape that will be amazing. The thing that I’m excited about is how he’s adjusted to me as a new head coach and to our system as a new system, and I’m impressed with how hard he plays. But not any one play or move or anything.
How would you describe his personality?
He has an engaging personality. I encourage him to be distrustful and skeptical of people. I encourage that, and I am myself. I think it’s important to be that way because as a high school football player in the state of Ohio he has an identity and a celebrity status to some extent. The cruel world takes advantage of people like that. I don’t know if he’s taken my advice, but he’s guarded and I think that’s good.
Have you seen him mature during your time as head coach?
Yes, I have. I came into his life in March, and we have developed what I consider to be a really good open relationship. He knows that I’m going to be free with my communication with him. I never hold back and I’m never unsure of whether I should say something or not. He knows that he can come to me and he knows he can share things with me, whether it’s about what we’re doing or anything. He knows he is welcome to come to me and share what’s on his mind, and he does.
Is there anything you’d like to see him improve on the remainder of his senior season?
I would love for him to utilize his speed even more sometimes. At the first level of defense, his muscle memory tells him to make a move, and I think as a running back, he just needs to use his speed at the first level and run through arm tackles because he’s strong. Save the move for the second or third level when you’ve got a matchup in space. As a running back, I would encourage him to use his speed because it’s asset No. 1, more so than making a move.
Dublin (Ohio) Scioto four-star LB Nick Conner