Features | Friday Night Drive

After missing last season, DeKalb’s Xavier Dandridge looks to make up for lost time

DeKalb's Xavier Dandridge gets some instruction from head coach Derek Schneeman during a joint football practice with Kaneland Thursday, July 14, 2022, at DeKalb High School.

DeKALB – Xavier Dandridge spent his sophomore season on the sidelines, watching his DeKalb football team finish 2-7 with an explosive playmaker out of commission.

This year, Dandridge is healthy and expected to start in the slot and is one of multiple speedy weapons available for quarterback Adrien McVicar and the DeKalb offense.

“That gave me time to improve myself and improve mentally, learn how to deal with things,” Dandridge said. “I think it also gave me more time to learn. Being a sophomore I was able to learn through practice, still coming to practice even though I was injured. It gives me more of a drive to be better this season.”

After playing in the six-game spring 2021 season as a freshman, Dandridge was expected to have a big role for the Barbs until a collarbone injury derailed his fall season a week before it started.

Coach Derek Schneeman said he thought Dandridge was going to have an impact on the Barbs’ offense last year. Now, Schneeman still expects big things from Dandridge when the season kicks off Aug. 26 against Sycamore at Huskie Stadium.

“He was set to have a good year last year until he broke his collarbone,” Schneeman said. “He has really worked his tail off all offseason long. It was heartbreaking to him last year when he missed the season, and he’s in great shape now. He’s set himself up really well to have a great year. I’m really excited for him cause he’s done some really special things in 7-on-7s.”

Dandridge is a standout track athlete and is one of multiple sprinters on the football roster along with Jamari Brown, Talon Tate, Cooper Phelps and Ethan McCarter.

At 5-foot-4, he’s also one of the smallest players on the field. At this point in his career, Dandridge said he’s used to being the smallest athlete in a situation and knows how to use it to his advantage.

“Growing up, I’ve always been the smallest, whether it’s the football field, basketball court,” Dandridge said. “I’ve had to deal with it for a long time. I’ve had to use my speed in many different ways to put me at an advantage over others given my height.”

He said players such as former Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen, who stands 5-6, have set the blueprint to have success.

“Guys like Tarik Cohen, they showed me anything is possible,” Dandridge said. “If you have speed, even if you might be undersized a little bit, you can still be the player you want to be. If you can play, you can play.”

Schneeman said that is why Dandridge will line up in the slot this year. In addition to keeping carries on jet sweeps as an option, he’ll be lined up against linebackers and safeties, having a distinct speed and maneuverability advantage.

“When you get those opportunities, it’s going to be tough for a bigger-sized kid to keep up with him,” Schneeman said. “He’s such a good route-runner, and he’s so quick getting out of his breaks. And there’s going to be chances, too, where he gets the ball on jet sweeps. He’s going to be a ballcarrier too.”

Schneeman said Dandridge is sure-handed, physical and plays much bigger than his size.

Schneeman said Barbs have been encouraging the team to diversify and run track to work on speed, especially with defensive coordinator Jeff Sauerbaugh also the boys track coach.he gets his touches and opportunities.”

Schneeman said Barbs coaches have been encouraging the team to diversify and run track to work on speed, especially with defensive coordinator Jeff Sauerbaugh also the boys track coach.

Dandridge said he’s excited about what they can do combined with the deep-ball capabilities of McVicar – who battled through injuries as well last year.

“I feel like that’s an advantage, and we have the quarterback to get us the ball on those deep passes,” Dandridge said. “I feel that gives us a big advantage.”