Burrell grad Ian Durci sees receiving numbers rise in second season at Allegheny

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Monday, October 10, 2022 | 11:03 AM


Ian Durci can laugh about it now, the way the Burrell football team’s offense has gone from coach Shawn Liotta’s preferred pass-happy style to ground and pound.

“I bet coach Liotta isn’t too happy about that,” Durci said with a chuckle.

Fortunately for Durci (5-foot-9, 160 pounds), as a receiver at Burrell, he got to reap the benefits of playing in Liotta’s passing system. That, he said, helped him transition to the college game more smoothly, and he is having what looks to be a breakout season at Allegheny.

After posting modest numbers as a freshman — he caught 16 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in 10 games — Durci’s numbers have grown exponentially. Through the Gators’ first five games, he has caught 24 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown.

He caught six passes for a personal-best 76 yards in Allegheny’s Sept. 24 win over Waynesburg. It was an odd time to get a personal best in receiving yards considering the Gators (2-3, 1-2 PAC) rushed 55 times for 311 yards in that game, including 201 by senior running back Tre Worship.

But coach Rich Nagy said he believes that’s when the Gators are at their best: when they can run and throw the ball with equal effectiveness. And Durci, he said, has been a key part of achieving that balance.

“I’ve watched Ian work as a freshman and in the offseason and seen just how important football is to him,” Nagy said. “Especially the way he closed out last year, what his abilities were. I just felt like we were on the verge of doing some really good things.”

Over the final three games of the 2021 season, Durci had nine of his 16 receptions and his lone touchdown: a 9-yard scoring pass with just over 90 seconds left to provide the margin of victory in a wild, season-ending 42-38 win over Oberlin.

Nagy said Durci has made his biggest improvement in route-running: executing precise routes with quick, clean cuts. Further, Nagy said Durci understands what those routes mean in the grand scheme of the offense.

“During my coaching career, I’ve always laughed. When you look at receivers, it’s the size, the speed and all that stuff,” he said. “People catching the football and running routes and getting in and out of breaks are just as important, and Ian does those things very well.”

Added Durci: “I’m learning a lot of different coverages as the play is going, picturing different coverages the defense is running. That’s what I think has improved the most. It’s one thing to be a good route-runner and catch the ball, but if you’re not running to the right places and helping your quarterback out with reads, the play is pointless.

“You need to be able to take different coverages for your quarterback and find different holes in zones.”

Durci has been happy with the strides he has made in his short time with the Gators. One area he is working to improve is getting more yards after catches.

Nagy said he often jabs Durci about always turning into the middle of the field and right into tackles. Seeing the soft spots in the defense after the catch, Nagy said, will be key to Durci’s further development.

Durci said he also is guilty of trying to juke defenders too much rather than going north/south after a catch. Ultimately, he said his aim is “finding the end zone more. Not just for me but to help my team.”

The Gators are building a new foundation after moving back to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference this season. The start has been promising, and Nagy is confident Durci will be a big part of the plans going forward.

“As a coach, you can sit there and say, ‘We’re teaching them this. We’re doing this.’ And all those things,” he said. “But they have to learn it. They have to know it, and he does a really good job of understanding those things. And he can start to add to it.”

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