published Monday, September 10th, 2012

Gossett Blog: Year of the quarterback in area prep football

Is this the year of the quarterback?

Consider that two from the Chattanooga area already have committed to Division I schools -- Signal Mountain's Reese Phillips (6-3, 220) to Kentucky and Calhoun's Taylor Lamb (6-2, 195) to South Alabama.

It's a tough year in a way to be a senior quarterback in the southeast, especially one looking for a Southeastern Conference-type scholarship.

Calhoun coach Hal Lamb mentioned in a Sunday afternoon conversation that all but one of the SEC and Atlantic Coast Conference members have received a commitment from one of their top quarterback choices and that there are more than a dozen quarterbacks in Georgia alone that have committed.

As in the case of his quarterback, Taylor, the 2013 college recruiting class is tough for quarterbacks because there are so many good ones.

"Wake [Forest] was close to offering him. They had offered three others and he was next in line and one of those three committed," the coach said.

That doesn't mean that Lamb was without choices. He chose South Alabama over fellow Division I (FBS) members Memphis and Indiana.

"He really liked the facilities down there and it's also close to the beach," Lamb said.

Phillips also wanted to get his commitment out of the way and, after brief flirtations with Tennessee and Vanderbilt chose Kentucky.

It is the dilemma staring Red Bank's Hagen Wilkey square in the face. The senior is basically a first-year starter who is learning the do's and don'ts the hard way. Still, he has the size (6-4, 215), grades and arm strength, plus he's a powerful runner.

• Phillips has suffered some with rookie receivers and the boss, Jay Gleeson, wrote last Saturday that Phillips had at least 10 passes dropped.

The ever positive Phillips told Jay, though, that Signal Mountain (1-3) was getting better and that the Eagles just had to keep their head and keep improving.

• Receiver Justin Brown surprised most anyone who knows anything about Polk County football. Against Chattanooga Christian Friday, Brown caught three passes for 102 yards.

"Sorry, I don't know who the last receiver was [with a 100-yard game] or when it was," Polk coach Derrick Davis said. "It isn't a change in philosophy but our starting tailback was out and they were crowding the line of scrimmage determined to stop the run so we adjusted."

Polk, always the run game-first team, still had a 100-yard rusher in Zach Miller, who carried the ball 12 times for 103 yards.

• Never thought McMinn County would get shut out in a half, especially when the Cherokees were behind but it happened Friday in a loss to Farragut.

McMinn still leads Region 5-AAA (1-0 league, 3-1 overall) but that lead could receive a stiff challenge this week when the Cherokees play Ooltewah.

Don't know if you've looked at the standings that closely, but Walker Valley is the only unbeaten team left in 5-AAA. Of course, the Mustangs have yet to play a region game.

Speaking of unbeatens in the Chattanooga area, the number got pared again last week when Baylor lost to Montgomery Bell Academy. The Red Raiders have the unenviable task of going on the road this week to play Ensworth, the team that has kept them from a state title the last two years.

Anyway, the unbeaten teams left in the area are Sweetwater (4-0, 5-AA), South Pittsburg (3-0, 6-A), Boyd-Buchanan (4-0, 5-A), and Copper Basin (3-0, 5-A) in Tennessee, Northwest Whitfield (1-0, 4A), Gordon Central (2-0) and Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (2-0) in 3A, Calhoun (2-0, 2A) and Trion (2-0) in 1A in Georgia and Fort Payne (2-0, 5A) and Ider (2-0) and North Sand Mountain (2-0) in 2A in Alabama.

A special congrats to first-year Walker Valley coach Glen Ryan. The Mustangs are 3-0 for the first time in school history. They've already equaled the win total of the three previous seasons. Of course, Ryan must keep his players' minds on the gauntlet ahead of them, one that includes Cleveland, Ooltewah, Bradley Central, Ooltewah and Rhea County.

• Following up on the quarterbacks, keep an eye on Gordon Central's M.J. Reynolds. He had a most productive effort Friday, accounting for five TDs on a 16-of-21 throwing effort (two TDs) and a 46-yard rushing effort (three more scores).

And although I haven't seen him this year, figure Austin Herink from Cleveland will be among those receiving Division I (FBS) offers in the future.

You can also add Baylor's Michael O'Connor to the quarterback group. The player from Canada had a quality game against MBA, missing a 100-yard rushing effort by just two yards and throwing for 200 with no interceptions.

It looks like Baylor has settled on a starter but that doesn't mean that sophomore

Nick Tiano won't wind up being a FBS player in three or four years. Like O'Connor, he has the size and passing skills.

And if a school is looking for an option quarterback, that school might take a look at some video of Boyd-Buchanan's Jim Cardwell, who had a breakout game (211 rushing yards) last week.

• On the ones to watch list, put Howard senior lineman Brandon Walters back on it and maybe boost him up near the top. The 6-foot-8, 280-pounder has prompted a couple of opposing coaches to wonder just why he hasn't been grabbed up.

"He had his way with our guys," one coach said. "Whatever he wanted to do, he did, and he looked really good doing it."

A number of schools including UTC have had Walters on their secondary lists.

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765.

about Ward Gossett...

Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...

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