Cards QB impressed with Hoover
It's been an offseason of change for Union Academy's football program.
The Cardinals have a new coach, former Carolina Panthers fullback Brad Hoover, and expect to start a senior transfer at quarterback.
Craig Twele was the backup to Jeff Welch at Weddington High in 2012.
Twele said transferring for his senior year was a tough decision to make.
"It definitely wasn't something I woke up and decided overnight," Twele said after Thursday's minicamp workout. "It was something I had to think a while about. Those were kids that I had been playing with since middle school. It definitely was a hard decision changing schools for my senior season. Ultimately, it came down to what school had more to offer. I think Union Academy was that school."
Twele said the hiring of Hoover was a factor in his decision.
"We have three coaches that played in the NFL so we have a great coaching staff and some great people around there," Twele said. "We have some great kids over there, too."
In addition to Hoover, the Cardinals' coaching staff includes four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ted Washington — a holdover from the former staff — and former Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Damione Lewis. The trio has a combined 37 years of NFL experience.
"Having played in the NFL, they were the best that they could be at their position; all of them know football to the top of the line," Twele said. "That's going to help us learn and develop at our positions. They bring the intensity that they played with. That intensity helps out with everything they do."
The 36-year-old Hoover is coaching for the first time.
"I think he has been doing great," Twele said. "Me, him and the team, we're all adjusting. Me to a new school and him as a new head coach. I think we've made a lot of good strides this summer. As a team we are doing well."
Twele is hoping to bolster the passing game.
The Cardinals relied on the run in 2012, led by tailback Rasheed Rushing, who is now on a full ride at Elizabeth City State.
The Cardinals completed just 40 of 114 passes for 911 yards last season with seven touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Twele wants to see those numbers to rise significantly.
"I think we are going to improve (the passing game) a lot," Twele said. "For one we have Maliq Pando back, the leading receiver from last season. We have a lot of great guys out there, Zach Zupetz, Will Walters, Christian Almeida, all of them have been great for us catching the ball and getting up field. I think we have a lot more receivers and guys that are willing to go out and make catches for us. Last year I think they built that team around the run. I think we're going to have more opportunities to pass it this year than last year when they had Rasheed."
Twele says Hoover is emphasizing physical play.
"Him coming from the Panthers, being a fullback, he is going to want to have a strong running game," Twele said. "He wants a smash-mouth kind of team and along with that we're going to have a dynamic passing game. Overall, I think he wants us to be a fundamentally sound, hard-hitting group of kids."
Twele has also been impressed with the scheme Hoover and his staff have devised.
He said the playbook isn't overly complex so the players can react rather than think when the ball is snapped.
"I think a lot of nicer playbooks are a lot of the simpler playbooks," he said. "You don't have to have a really, really complex, high-tech playbook," Twele said. "You can have something pretty simple and to the point. It's not going to be the Carolina Panthers' playbook but it's still going to be something that can get the job done and help us win the game."
The Cardinals are trying to master Hoover's playbook this summer as they prepare for the opening of practice on Aug. 1.
"Once it comes August and we put the pads on we have to see who can hit and who can't," he said.
Twele doesn't get to spend his senior year with his childhood friends, but appreciates the way he's been received at his new school.
"Right of the bat, everybody was great, everybody was welcoming," he said. "It was definitely hard moving from Weddington but the guys over here definitely have made it easier. I think we are making some great strides. We still have some stuff we have to work on but that's why we're only a little over half way through the summer. I think we're doing well with what we've been handed. I think we'll be all right as far as being ready for the season. We have a lot of work to do but I think we have made great strides."