Brinkley says Newport Harbor prepared to move on without standout tailback Whitaker.
David Carrillo Peñaloza
Newport Harbor High's most elusive player from last season has been tough to chase down this summer for Coach Jeff Brinkley.
Cedric Whitaker told the Daily Pilot last month that he has spent most of the summer in Oakland, while the Sailors trained. The first-team All-Sunset League tailback said he planned to return to Newport Beach this week and prepare for his final football season with the Tars.
The latter part is news to Brinkley. The team's fall practice starts on Thursday and Brinkley said he has not talked with Whitaker this summer.
Brinkley said he is unsure why Whitaker did not communicate with him after he left the team in June. Whitaker's future with the Sailors is in limbo.
"As of right now, he's not," Brinkley said when asked if Whitaker was returning to the team after rushing for 1,003 yards and totaling 12 touchdowns last season.
"We want to have guys that want to be here, and if they're not going to be here, we have to move on. We're going to win with you or without you."
Newport Harbor might have a difficult time winning without Whitaker, who helped the team finish second in the Sunset League and return to the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs last season after transferring from Emery of Emeryville.
Even if Brinkley allows Whitaker the opportunity to rejoin the Sailors, it will not be up to the coach to determine whether the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder can play football again in high school. The upcoming school year will be Whitaker's fifth in high school.
Last year might have been Whitaker's first and final one on a high school football team.
In order to be eligible to play this fall, Whitaker, 18, has to request a hardship waiver from the CIF Southern Section. Whitaker, who was held back a year, said he expected to file the request once he moved back in with his cousin, Paul Simpson, in Newport Beach.
"The paperwork is down there," Whitaker said last week while in Oakland with his family.
Whitaker said one player has reached out to him since he left for Oakland. He said that player was Buzzy Yokoyama.
Yokoyama is also one of three players Brinkley is counting on to carry the ball this season.
The other two players Brinkley named did not use Whitaker as a surname.
Brinkley said Yokoyama, a junior, as well as senior Drew Diller and junior AJ Swies are competing for the starting tailback job. Of the three, Brinkley said Yokoyama is the most dangerous in the open field, while Diller is more physical and Swies is more of a balanced back.
The three combined did not carry the ball or contribute as much offensively as Whitaker last season. Whitaker said Colorado State, San Diego State, Oregon State and Washington are recruiting him.
As for where Whitaker fits in, if he were able to play as a fifth-year senior, Brinkley did not want to talk about a player he has not talked with this summer.