When you ask people around the Carson High football program about senior Dilyn Rooker, they talk about his football smarts.
“He’s got a high football IQ,” said senior quarterback Nolan Shine, who will be throwing plenty of passes Rooker’s way this season. “He could be a coach if he wanted to.”
“His understanding of our offense and football (in general) is high,” coach Blair Roman said. “He has a high football IQ. I expect big things from him.”
The game is physical to be sure, and Rooker is a physical player. His intelligence makes him an even better player, however.
“I would say I got it (understanding of the game) when I was in Pop Warner,” Rooker said before Friday’s practice. “I had some coaches that were big on high school (football) and coached high school. They stressed playing smart and the physical part would be the rest. It gives you an advantage.”
The remark about being a coach on the floor is nothing new, really. Rooker plays point guard on the Senators, and that isn’t a position for somebody who doesn’t know the game or doesn’t know what the offense is trying to accomplish.
Rooker, who was brought up to varsity during his sophomore season, played both ways last year. He racked up nine tackles on defense and caught 19 passes for 397 yards and two scores. He enters the season as the starting free safety, and he’ll split time with junior Connor Pradere at wide receiver. He’s the leading returning receiver.
He had more success at receiver last year, enjoying a career-best 117-yard-two TD effort against North Valleys. He had TD receptions of 86 and 16 yards, respectively. He’s excited to be re-united with Shine, who was the quarterback on the JV team two years ago.
“Nolan and I have good chemistry from our JV year,” Rooker said. “It’s coming back right now.”
“Dilyn is looking good,” Shine said. “He runs his routes well.”
That is an area where Rooker has made the most progress. He doesn’t have blazing speed, so he needs to rely on precise routes and good hands.
“Last year I was indecisive,” Rooker said. “I didn’t know exactly where to go. I’m a year older and a year more confident. I can anticipate a lot better what the defensive backs are going to do.
“I haven’t set any goals in terms of how many catches I have. My goal is to never drop a pass whether I get thrown to one time or 100 times. Our offense is based around the run game, and we need to run the ball well to be effective. Whether I get five balls or 15, every time I touch the ball I want to score.”
Rooker averaged 20 yards a grab last year, second on the team to the graduated Andrew Gutierrez, who averaged 20.58 per catch. Receivers in the Senators’ offense can have big gainers depending on the success of the running game, and how many people the defense is ready to commit to stopping the run.
“He has refined his receiving skills,” Roman said. “He’s a competitive kid. He’s not afraid of getting hurt.”
That’s another way of saying Rooker is tough when he has to go over the middle for a ball. He’s not going to back down from a little contact. If there is a completion to be made, Rooker is going to do anything he can to get the ball.
It’s Rooker’s understanding of an offense that actually helps him on the defensive side of the ball. He knows what kind of moves to expect, and more importantly, how to counter them.
Roman said Rooker reminds him a lot of Joey Thurman, who was a two-way star last year. He said Rooker has a lot of the same instincts.