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Football Preview: No. 3 Marist

Marist senior Micah Awodiran, the Sun-Times’ top-ranked defensive player, had a spot waiting for him in big-time college football. The linebacker had more than a dozen offers from Power 5 conference schools. He chose Yale instead, a very uncommon decision.

Awodiran, obviously a smart kid, knows that the average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years.

“Exactly,” Awodiran said. “I wanted to make sure I was looking at the forty years ahead, not just the next four years. With all those great programs it was definitely a very tough choice. Getting out there as many times as I could and the comfort level I developed led to the ultimate decision to commit to Yale.”

Awodiran will major in political science. But that’s a year away. This season he has to deal with a target on his back. Every opponent he faces this season will be looking to knock him off his perch.

“I was definitely very flattered to be ranked number one,” Awodiran said. “But it’s all about what we do out here in practice, working hard every single day. As far as that target on me, I think I have some great teammates around me that will keep the defense playing at a high level.”

Marist, the Sun-Times No. 3 preseason ranked team, was just 5-4 in the regular season last year but found another level in the playoffs, ripping off four consecutive wins before losing to Loyola in the Class 8A state title game.

“Nothing will surprise me this season,” Marist senior defensive back Robert Topps said. “After making that run I feel like I’ve seen everything now and I feel confident that we can do that again.”

Topps is a Kansas recruit. Defensive tackle Elijah Teague has interest from some big-time college programs. Marist’s defense is obviously in good hands. Things aren’t quite as settled on the other side of the ball.

Marist coach Pat Dunne says he hasn’t decided on a quarterback yet. The Redhawks still have a week of practice to go before opening the season against Brother Rice.

“We’re still going through [picking a starting quarterback,” Dunne said. “Morgan Taylor, a junior, and Mike Markett, a sophomore, have been having a good competition.”

The offensive line, led by Kansas State recruit Billy Kuduk, should be solid in front of whichever quarterback wins the starting job.

“We have some experience back and we are looking good,” Kuduk said. “How we are playing as a unit is what’s most important and we are really starting to click.”

The RedHawks might have the state’s toughest schedule. The rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference is loaded at the top and deep overall and nonconference games against Simeon and Brother Rice are dangerous.

“I believe our conference is the toughest out there,” Dunne said. “But our senior leadership is really coming together. When you have that on both sides of the ball it brings a good energy to practice.”

Marist schedule

Aug. 28: vs. Brother Rice, 6 p.m.

Sep. 2: vs. Simeon, 7:30 p.m.

Sep. 9: at Carmel, 7:30 p.m.

Sep. 16: vs. Marian Central, 7:30 p.m.

Sep. 23: vs. Marian Catholic, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 1: at St. Patrick, 12:30 p.m.

Oct. 7: at Nazareth, 7 p.m.

Oct. 14: vs. Benet, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21: at Joliet Catholic, 7:30 p.m.