2022 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Laurel Highlands’ Rodney Gallagher

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022 | 6:25 PM


Editor’s note: The Tribune-Review and the TribLive High School Sports Network are profiling each member of the 25-player Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star team. The players will be recognized July 15 during HSSN Media Day at Kennywood Park.

Rodney Gallagher ranked among the WPIAL’s top quarterbacks last season, but the Laurel Highlands star won’t spend his senior year behind center. Instead, he’s shifting to wide receiver, a position the West Virginia recruit will play in college.

“I’m excited about it,” Gallagher said. “I’ve missed playing the position. I’m ready to get back to (wide receiver) things … and surprise a lot of people that I can play this position at the highest level.”

The 6-foot, 180-pound standout hasn’t played receiver full-time since his freshman year, when he caught 36 passes and scored 10 times.

As a sophomore, Gallagher split time between the positions. Last season, as a full-time quarterback, he passed for 1,360 yards, rushed for 1,130 more and contributed to 32 touchdowns.

So why change now?

The arrival of senior C.J. Soltis, who transferred last summer from Uniontown, gives the Mustangs another option at quarterback after working with the team for a full year.

“We had to look at what we have and what is the best fit for our skill set to have a chance to win games,” coach Richard Kolesar said.

“I think we have a kid that’s pretty good at quarterback. Obviously, Rodney is highly recruited as a wide receiver, so that puts him in a position that’s the best use of his skills.”

Gallagher said WVU coaches are happy he’s moving back to receiver this fall. But that doesn’t mean Gallagher won’t see any snaps at quarterback. That’s still part of the Laurel Highlands playbook to keep defenses guessing.

“He still goes back there every day at practice,” Kolesar said. “We run some plays with him there, so that’s not completely out of the picture. It’s just another tool in our tool belt.”

Gallagher’s primary focus this summer was sharpening his receiving skills. In fact, that has taken priority over summer basketball. As a two-sport standout, he traditionally spent his summers playing AAU basketball, but not this year.

“I’ve been training and practicing every single day,” Gallagher said, adding that he’s focused on fundamentals.

“I’m working on all types of stuff,” he said. “A lot of cones, a lot of drills, a lot of routes. Stuff that involves speed and doing it at the highest level.”

Gallagher also starts at safety.

A year ago, he led Laurel Highlands to the first playoff win in program history. The Mustangs went 8-4 and reached the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinals after a 28-27 first-round victory over Beaver.

“We want to make a run farther,” Gallagher said, “so we’ve got to get stronger, and we’ve got to get smarter.”

Gallagher committed to West Virginia in May, choosing the Mountaineers from a list that had more than two dozen FBS offers. His other finalists were Penn State, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

His college recruiting process lasted longer than most, starting with Division I basketball offers in the summer of 2019. So, this fall will be his first in years without feeling that pressure.

“It takes a lot of stuff off my back,” Gallagher said. “I feel like a whole different type of athlete now because I can just focus on my senior year and getting better.”

Rodney Gallagher

Laurel Highlands

Senior

6-0/180

WR/DB

Committed to: West Virginia

Division I offers: Around two dozen. His other finalists were Penn State, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech. Pitt, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Texas were listed among his top eight schools.

2021 statistics: 1,365 yards passing, 1,130 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns combined.

Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star team

Tyree Alualu, North Allegheny

Aidan Besselman, Upper St. Clair

Brad Birch, Gateway

Bobbie Boyd, McKeesport

Jaren Brickner, Beaver Falls

Cruce Brookins, Steel Valley

Kade Capristo, Mt. Lebanon

Joe Enick, Penn-Trafford

Peyton Faulkner, Avonworth

Davoun Fuse, Washington

Braylan Lovelace, Leechburg

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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