High school football: Wright an unquestioned force for Xenia

XENIA – Tremmell Wright often gets questions he doesn’t have answers to.

What colleges have offered you a place on their football team? When will you decide?

Wright walked out of Tuesday’s football practice at Xenia High School’s Doug Adams Stadium with an image of “The Answer” on his T-shirt. “The Answer” is former NBA star Allen Iverson, but that’s not the answer Wright needs. He sits down on a cooler and confidently answers questions about why his undefeated football team is playing so well. But answers about his future are unclear.

What is clear is Wright – a wide receiver and safety – is one of the most dynamic two-way players in the Miami Valley. Division II college programs want him. He has offers from Tiffin, Central State, Findlay, Ohio Dominican, Alderson-Broaddus of West Virginia and from DIII Wittenberg.

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But just like the answer he’s waiting on – do coaches at FCS programs or in the Mid-American Conference have a spot for him – the DII coaches will have to wait for his answer.

“I’m going to wait until after the season and see how the season goes,” Wright said. “I feel like if I push myself more, get my grades as high as possible, work out some more and get more muscle – I’m not very big – but I feel like if I can do those three things, then I can succeed at the next level.”

Wright’s next chance to impress is Friday night in a showdown of the Miami Valley League’s two unbeaten teams. Xenia, rated No. 1 in the Division II, Region 8 playoff points, plays host to unbeaten Tippecanoe, the No. 2 team in Division III, Region 12.

Recruiting analysts and coaches with college experience say the transfer portal continues to effect recruiting for players like Wright who are not highly rated by recruiting websites. Xenia coach Maurice Harden was a four-year starter at Urbana University and saw plenty of college-level players in his time as an assistant coach at Chaminade Julienne. He has no doubt that Wright (5-foot-11, 180 pounds) is good enough to play in the MAC, but he understands the hesitancy now common in recruiting.

“The landscape of recruiting changed due to the transfer portal,” Harden said. “For the college coach, when you get a player he’s an investment. I always tell them, if I’m coaching and we lose I still have my regular job. For them, they lose they have to go home and tell their wife we got to pack and up leave and I don’t know where we’re going. So they’ve got to make sure that this kid comes in and helps them to be successful.”

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When Harden came to Xenia in February of 2021, he changed the program from a triple-option rushing attack to a spread offense that made room for a passing game. Wright played quarterback as a sophomore in 2020 and the Buccaneers finished 2-8. Harden soon learned about Gavin McManus, who quarterbacked the eighth-grade team.

So the question for Wright – already a first-team all-league safety – was would he be interested in playing wide receiver for the first time in his life. His answer was yes. Harden’s idea that Wright’s athletic ability would better serve him and the team by stretching the defense on the edge and down the field was soon validated.

As a junior Wright and McManus formed a connection. Wright was second in the MVL in receiving yards (642) and third in receptions (44) and touchdown receptions (seven). This year he leads the MVL in receiving yards (621) and touchdown receptions (10) and is third in receptions (23).

“He has a unique ability to turn any play into a touchdown,” Harden said. “He’s that explosive.”

On defense Wright stops the other team from making big plays. He’s been starting since he was a freshman and has eight interceptions, including five last year. He’s looking for his first interception this year and has three pass deflections. Quarterbacks aren’t in a hurry to throw his direction.

“Defensively he’s just a difference maker in the back end because of how great of ball skills he has,” Harden said. “You know when that ball’s in the air he will come down and get it, and then when he gets it he’s special.”

Wright will be the first member of his family to get the opportunity to earn a college degree. But he wants to be sure he makes the best choice for a chance to play, an avenue to prepare for a career beyond football and an opportunity to play professional football.

Next question: Do you prefer offense or defense?

“That’s hard,” Wright said and flashed a big smile. “I like both of them probably equal, but I like catching the ball. But I also like hitting people.”

Which position for college?

“It just depends on what schools’ needs are,” Harden said. “A lot of people have looked at him as a wide receiver. The bigger schools have looked at him as a defensive back. Regardless of where he plays, I think he can be dynamic at either spot.”

No question.

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