Lopez evolves to center of Chandler offense

September 25, 2010 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Tanner Lopez has just about run the gamut of positions in his third year in the Chandler High football program.

As position switches have mounted and spots he's played have become less and less glamorous, his niche has finally surfaced this year.

"When he was a freshman he was a quarterback," Chandler coach Jim Ewan said. "He was the backup quarterback. Last year on the JV we moved him to defense. This year on varsity we needed to fill the center spot. He's been the guy, and done very well."

Quite a transition. But then Lopez isn't your prototypical center, not even for high school football. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds he's undersized. But he's picked up the mantra of older brother, Dallas, who was Chandler's starting center the past couple seasons. Tanner Lopez even inherited his brother's number from last year, No. 53.

"The other thing he did when he was a freshman besides backup at quarterback was do our long snapping," Ewan said. "Last year we decided to move him to a linebacker-defensive end and tight end. To see if we could take advantage of his frame."

It didn't pan out. Both years Lopez didn't play much. But the long-snapping continued. It was his ace in the hole. He thought about giving up football briefly. Then he was shifted to offensive line as the team headed to summer camp in late July.

"I never thought I'd be a center," Lopez said. "But a starting spot is a starting spot."

Offensive line coach Sam Koch initially placed Lopez at tackle. After watching a few days, Lopez was on the move again.

"He'd done a great job as a long snapper," Koch said. "We needed to fill that center gap. With his long-snapping experience, it looked like it could be a fit."

"So far he's pulling his weight. He's getting better every day. Progressing every day."

Ewan and the staff knew the makeup of Dallas Lopez. Once Tanner got entrenched as an offensive lineman, they saw some of the same characteristics. That sealed the deal.

"Tanner's a scrappy kid, like his brother,"  Ewan said. "And he'd been playing with his hand on the ground as our long snapper already." 

The Wolves were hoping Tanner would be a little more bulky. He still has a year to go to reach his brother's playing weight . So far it hasn't happened despite the best efforts at the training table.

"They both have good frames, but  Dallas has about 30 or 35 pounds on Tanner," Ewan said. "Tanner eats the equivalent of three kids, but he must have a tapeworm or something. He doesn't put the weight on."

Chandler's running game complemented its passing game nicely Sept. 23 in the Wolves' 43-29 win over Brophy. Looking at the tape, Tanner Lopez  was impressive.

"He graded out making 95 percent of his blocks," Koch said. "It was a solid performance.

With more tough, physical games coming up against Fiesta Region opponents, including unbeaten nemesis Hamilton on Oct. 1, Lopez is ready to go back to work.

"I've got big shoes to fill," Tanner Lopez said. "I think I'm doing a decent job. But there's a lot more games to go."