Manny Douglas has never had a problem inserting freshmen and sophomores into his starting lineup.
That's a big reason Narbonne (Harbor City, Calif.)
has produced so many solid football players over the years and a CIF state championship as recently as 2017.
The next in line as far as a great running back at Narbonne is Marceese Yetts
"He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands," said Douglas, who is the head coach. "He doesn't go down after first contact, which is huge and then he finishes a lot of plays in the end zone."
When Yetts was starting on the junior varsity squad as a freshman, Douglas always had his eye on the young man. By the time playoffs rolled around that season, Douglas plugged Yetts into the lineup.
"As a freshman, I expected a little bit of varsity time but I wasn't expecting to be a whole fourth-quarter type of guy," said Yetts, who was just 14 years old that first season. "I expected a few carries and when I did, I did what I could do with it."
Yetts showed all the intangibles of being a strong, every-down back: he can hit the hole hard, is speedy in the opening field, is a weapon in the screen game and is explosive every time he gets his hands on the ball.
"Going into this year, we had a couple running backs that were pretty good but as the spring and the summer came, he just played out," Douglas said. "He earned that starting spot. He became the most dynamic back we have."
Douglas said the 5-foot-8, 160-pound Yetts – who he compares to a Marshall Faulk-type of player -- is the perfect fit for his system.
"We throw a lot of screens to our backs out of the backfield, a lot of misdirection screens," Yetts said. "We run the ball with him, inside, outside, zone in our gap schemes. Then we'll flex him out in space. We go empty and throw him the ball."
Yetts' vision is one of his best attributes. He takes advantages when in the open field and sees where defenders aren't going to be.
"When I get the ball, everything goes down to slow motion," Yetts said. "So, if I get the ball I'm planning if I'm going to go up the field or if I'm going to take this dude outside and take him up field. Every time I get the ball it's about finishing strong, every carry, every reception. When I get the ball, the plan is to score every time."
Douglas loves Yetts' speed. Being a runner on the Narbonne track and field team has helped Yetts get faster. When he was running the 100-meter dash as a freshman, Yetts recalls having times in the 13-second range. This year, he's clocked a personal-record time of 10.9. He competes in the 200 and 4x100-meter relay, too.
Like his coach noted, Yetts was dynamic this season. In the first five games of his sophomore campaign, he averaged 115 yards per game and 5.97 yards per carry.
It was the fifth game of the year against rival Serra where Yetts padded his gridiron resume with highlight-reel runs and eye-opening speed in the open field in the passing game.
Early in the game, Yetts scored on a 49-yard screen to get his team going. The back-and-forth contest saw Yetts carry the ball 27 times, the final attempt was the difference maker. With Narbonne trailing 26-20 in the second overtime, Yetts took a handoff, bounced outside, push aside a few would-be tacklers and forced his way into the end zone for a 13-yard score. The Narbonne kicker converted the extra point to give the team a memorable 27-26 victory.
"It was just an unexplainable moment," Yetts said.
But for all the momentum and jubilation from the Serra win, the next week Yetts suffered a high left ankle sprain against Lawndale. He missed the next three games. When Yetts got back on the field, he was visibly still injured. In the final seven games of the season, Yetts had just 24 carries for 114 yards and three touchdowns.
"I couldn't get back to 100 percent me," said Yetts, who was named second-team all-state for the sophomore class.
Yetts finished his sophomore year with 687 yards on 120 carries and eight total touchdowns.
Playing in such a football-rich area and with so many talented teammates, colleges have taken notice of Yetts' game. Just two weeks ago, Syracuse extended an offer. Other Power 5 conference teams that have given offers include Stanford, UCLA, Ohio State, Penn State and Washington State.
Knowing he's on the radar of a lot of the top programs in the country really pushes Yetts.
"It makes me just want to work harder so I can improve my game to the next level," Yetts said.
Yetts, 16, is looking at attending a very solid academic institution. He has a 3.8 grade point average and works hard to do well in the classroom.
"Everything I do is just planning ahead for the future," said Yetts, who is thinking about pursuing a business degree in college.
Yetts is taking four honors courses this semester, so he likes to challenge himself as a student.
He also likes to connect with his community. After one of his former teammates' sisters died from cancer at age 13, Yetts has volunteered through the organization BrittiCares. There are events throughout the year and each Thanksgiving Yetts passes out food and drinks to patients and doctors at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.
Yetts feels good working with a great cause.
"Just helping out wherever I can, because if it was me, I'd want somebody to help me out," Yetts said.
Douglas raves about Yetts as a football player and student. The coach is looking forward to seeing Yetts reach his ultimate potential with his extremely high ceiling.
"He's young. We've got two more years with him," Douglas said. "He's going to be one of the better ones that leaves the program."