Dylan Minshull is off and running in Neelin’s spring intrasquad game Friday. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
Dylan Minshull is on a mission to improve on last season’s spectacular high school football season.
The Grade 11 student led the Neelin Spartans’ offence and the Winnipeg High School Football League’s Kas Vidruk West Division with 794 rushing yards through the team’s first four games, when his season was cut short due to a fractured growth plate in his knee and a cracked femur.
Leaving the Spartans in the middle of last season made the 5-foot-6, 170-pound running back feel like he let his team down. He was also hoping to break the league’s record of 1,667 rushing yards in a season. That record is squarely in his sights this season and he’s had lots of time to think about how he’s going to try to break it in the fall.
"My goal is to rush for 1,700 yards," he said. "That would mean I’d have to rush for over 200 and some per game. I have this all mapped out. Ever since I’ve been injured I’ve been looking at the stats and thinking about what I can do to make myself better and hopefully benefit the team."
Minshull has been working hard to get back to full strength, completing rehabilitation with a physiotherapist and spending a lot of time in the weight room. He also played basketball with Neelin’s varsity boys team over the winter.
Minshull said his knee felt a little weird playing basketball, but felt fine during the Spartans’ spring camp, which wrapped up Friday with an intrasquad scrimmage.
While he feels healthy, Minshull knows his game will have to change a little bit this fall.
Only one member of the Spartans’ big offensive line from last year is back, and it looks like next season’s line will be a little smaller and quicker. That could mean Minshull will have to show a little more athleticism in the backfield, but he’s ready for the challenge.
"We’ll have to rely on our speed a little bit more than just overall power," he said. "… Last year, I loved that line. I could basically hide behind them and come out of nowhere and hit someone. I’m going to miss them so much. It’s going to be different.
"We just need to get everyone to work out. I’m going to talk to (Spartans head coach Robert) Cullen and see if we can get together and work out a couple days a week and do conditioning to get ready for the season because everyone likes to win."
Minshull and Cullen were both impressed with the team’s five-day spring camp. Between 25 and 30 players were out on a consistent basis, although some missed the sessions due to extra-curricular and work commitments.
The team is auditioning six players at quarterback as Neelin tries to create a more successful passing attack to balance Minshull on the ground.
Despite that, Cullen will remain a key piece of their offence as the Spartans try to improve upon their 1-6 record from last year.
"When you have a back like Dylan, you’re going to give him the ball and let him take care of business," Cullen said. "I think he does have the potential to (lead the league in rushing) for the full year. It’s just a matter of whether our young offensive line can open the holes for him."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 26, 2012