Thursday, May 21, 2020
Highlands Alum Sees Playing Time at Unexpected Position at Morehead State
Grady Cramer headed to college not knowing if he would see any action in his first season on campus for the Morehead State Eagles.
The Eagles recruited the 2019 Highlands graduate to play quarterback and redshirted him this past fall. But injuries gave him some action at free safety. Cramer recorded one solo tackle in his college debut on Nov. 16 in a 52-20 loss at the University of San Diego.
"Mostly, I just used my athletic ability to my advantage," Cramer said. "Like quarterback, it helps to know coverages and all that stuff so it wasn't too hard to adapt to running coverages instead of seeing them and knowing what they are."
The 6-foot-3-inch, 196-pound Cramer had his best game at the position one week later in a 31-16 home loss to the Stetson University Hatters from DeLand, Florida. Cramer had three solo and two assisted tackles.
"At that point, I was about about five, maybe six weeks into straight on practicing defensive back and that was it," Cramer said. "I felt pretty confident in myself and the support calls that we had to call. The safeties were in charge of that. We had to be in the right place at the right time. We had to tell other people to be at the right place at the right time. I feel like I did a pretty good job of that. It was where I had to be the whole game."
Morehead State Head Coach Rob Tenyer finished his eighth season as head coach of the Eagles in 2019 after serving the previous 12 seasons as an assistant. Tenyer also serves as the Offensive Coordinator. He said seven safeties went out with injuries this past season.
"It was more out of necessity. It was a bad situation and something I hope I never have to experience again as a head coach," Tenyer said. "We felt like we gave us an opportunity to be competitive. You just can't throw someone on defense. You have to have a physical mentality about yourself. You have to be able to move. You have to have good body control. We felt like he could do it and he went over there and did a pretty good job."
Cramer still has four years of eligibility remaining. An NCAA rule states that players can keep the redshirt if they play in four or fewer games in one season.
"Even though it wasn't at quarterback, I still got experience in a game for what it felt like to play in c a college football game," Cramer said. "It's definitely quicker. Your brain has to think 10 times as fast with everything that's going on. There are different calls you have to call, especially playing defense."
As a freshman at Highlands, Cramer played safety for two drives. He played linebacker and defensive end in grade school. Cramer played most of his junior year in 2017 at wide receiver before starting the two playoff games at quarterback.
Cramer played quarterback all of 2018 as a senior at Highlands completing 166-of-291 passes for 2,024 yards, 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Bluebirds finished 10-3 that year driving to the Class 5A region championship game before losing 36-0 at Covington Catholic.
Tenyer said the Eagles use multiple fronts on defense including many odd-front looks. Tenyer also said Morehead State employs an up-tempo, no-huddle Spread offense similar to what Highlands has run in the past depending on personnel.
"It was really sort of the same (offense like Highlands) with passing," Cramer said. "The route combinations are little bit different obviously. (With) the running, there's counter, power and all the same stuff, but the way we block it is a little bit different. The quarterbacks have to know every call, who to block, who's blocking who, what gap is going to be open, what linebacker is not going to be blocked that way we can pick that up and all that stuff. It is obviously a lot more difficult, whereas in high school, the linemen have their job then you have the job of getting the back the ball and that's it."
Morehead State finished the season 5-7 including 3-5 in the Pioneer Football League. The PFL is the lone conference in the nation in NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision that does not offer scholarships.
Morehead State last had a winning season at 7-4 in 2015. Since entering the PFL in 2001, Morehead State has not won a PFL title. But between 2002 and 2005 during a five-year run between 2001 and 2005 when the PFL had two divisions, Morehead State appeared in the league title game four straight seasons.
"I feel like each year, we've really been improving a lot," Cramer said. "There's been a different mentality there than there was in past years. I feel like Coach Tenyer and the other coaches are doing a good job of that. The older players have been leading by example and the younger guys are picking up on it. We have to keep getting better. That's what I see right now."
Before Cramer moved to safety last season, Tenyer said he assured Cramer he'd still have an opportunity to play quarterback in the future for the Eagles. Morehead State returns two quarterbacks from last year in redshirt senior DeAndre Clayton and redshirt junior Mark Pappas. Morehead State also has a junior college transfer quarterback coming in.
"I can project Grady being our quarterback at some point," Tenyer said. "Will it be this year? I'm not sure. But he'll definitely have a chance and an opportunity to compete for the job. I know he's going to be a tremendous asset to our team. He can do all the things that we're going to ask our quarterbacks to do so I'm excited to watch him grow, develop and hopefully eventually help us win a championship."
Most players and coaches say trust is an important thing to have among each other for teams to be successful. Morehead State offensive lineman Carter Black played for Covington Catholic when Cramer played for Highlands.
"All you have to do is go in and be yourself," Cramer said. "That's what the coaches told us from day one. Get to know everybody for who they are. That's what we did and we came together pretty well."
Cramer said it's a fun atmosphere at Jayne Stadium with the town at the edge of the Appalachian Mountains. Between 2,000 and 12,000 people attended the six home games this past fall as noted in the box scores.
Academically, Cramer said things took off quickly at Morehead State. He made the PFL Academic Honor Team in the fall and spring. Players need to have posted a 3.0 grade-point average or higher during the semester while enrolled full-time in compliance with NCAA rules. The Pre-Physical Therapy major has a 3.75 GPA.
"Highlands did a very good job preparing me academically for sure," Cramer said. "A lot of classes are just as difficult. You can take college-level classes and it's nice because you can also get college credit for it. Algebra was super easy for me this year. I didn't really struggle with it necessarily at Highlands, but it was sort of difficult. But I got through it and our teachers did a good job preparing us for it."
Over the off-season, Cramer hoped to build muscle. He said he is up to 216 pounds of muscle. He also hope to become faster and read defensive formations better.
The official date for the players to return to Morehead is Aug. 1. The Eagles have six home games on the schedule and the road games include a trip to the University of Montana on Sept. 19. The first game is Sept. 3 against Prebyterian University out of Clinton, South Carolina, which is joining the Pioneer League in 2021.