AURORA – The defending Class 3A state champion Aurora Christian football team should be a force this season regardless of whether or not Burlington Central transfer Joel Bouagnon is cleared by the IHSA to play.
But, man, what an addition Bouagnon would be.
For now, Eagles coach Don Beebe is walking the line of preparing for the 2012 season with or without Bouagnon, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound, Northern Illinois-bound running back/linebacker.
“I’ve been doing this eight years now, and being at a private school, you have to get used to this,” Beebe said. “When I first got here and a kid would come in, I’d be like, ‘Oh, gosh, man, this kid can play,’ and the next thing you know, oh, the kid can’t play.
“I’m so into the mode now that if a kid comes in, I don’t even think of him as a player until I get the OK from [IHSA executive director] Marty Hickman. So will he practice and get some reps? Yes, because I’ve got to prepare for both scenarios. That makes it tough.”
Bouagnon, who rushed for more than 1,400 yards as a junior at Burlington Central, decided to transfer for various personal reasons unrelated to football, he said after Friday afternoon’s practice. Bouagnon had familiarity with Beebe, having trained at the House of Speed for the past few years, and decided Aurora Christian would be the right place for a change of scenery.
The Eagles traditionally are known for a prolific passing game, but Bouagnon still likes the fit with the Eagles.
“I don’t think that matters,” Bouagnon said. “They threw a lot when they had [Western Michigan recruit Anthony Maddie] last year and we’re still going to throw a lot now, but you don’t want to be one-sided.”
Of course, the IHSA’s answer on Bouagnon might partially dictate the Eagles’ run-pass ratio. Beebe said clearance from Central and additional paperwork related to Bouagnon’s move outside of the Central district has taken time to process, and was unsure whether there would be closure before the Eagles’ Aug. 24 season opener against DuSable.
Regardless of Bouagnon’s fate for the 2012 season, the Eagles have two proven runners in Brandon Mayes and Ryan Suttle to complement their passing game. If Bouagnon joins the ground game mix, it could be changing times on offense for the Eagles.
Bouagnon said he’s had little difficulty acclimating to the Eagles’ offensive schemes.
“That’s pretty much how I breathe,” Bouagnon said. “I pick it up really easily. I got it pretty quickly, actually.”
Although the defending state champions have plenty of leadership – including a pair of Bouagnon’s future NIU teammates, receiver Chad Beebe and Mayes – Bouagnon said he hopes to play a significant role on the field and in the locker room this season.
“I’m going to become as much of a leader as I can be on this team,” Bouagnon said. “It’s not the same as if you’ve been here for four years, but I’m going to do the best I can.”