Lamar quarterback race picks up from 2016

Published 7:02 pm Sunday, July 30, 2017

BEAUMONT — Few football teams have had to endure the headache that was the dwindling quarterback depth at Lamar in 2016.
Blake McKenzie was also ready out for the second straight season with another ACL tear in camp. Carson Earp shared starts with Andrew Allen before suffering a season-ending injury to his throwing shoulder. Brett Cox was academically ineligible and Clayton Turner moved to wide receiver, leaving two freshmen expected to redshirt when Allen himself went down with a broken collarbone on homecoming.
That same game, Case Robinson sustained a broken bone in his hand, and Adam Morse started the remaining three games — with wide receiver Michael Handy and Robinson taking snaps in the finale.
As preseason camp begins Monday with a new head coach, the quarterback quandary isn’t solved. But the race is starting over.
“Everybody wants to be the man in college football,” said Morse, the sophomore from Port Neches-Groves. “It’s the spotlight. Everybody wants it. To get it, you’ve got to work hard and keep pushing for it.”
First-year Lamar coach Mike Schultz has said none of the returning quarterbacks from 2016 have separated himself from others, although they’ve been through spring drills. During Sunday’s team media day, Schultz declined to even talk about the addition of another player to the race — SMU transfer Darrel Colbert — “out of respect” for the other competitors.
Schultz isn’t in a hurry, either, to settle on a starter for the Sept. 2 opener at North Texas.
“If we knock that out too early, I’m going to be disappointed because that means somebody is not competing like I want them to,” he said. “That should be an ongoing process. It’s a process we’re going to have to go through for the first two to three weeks. We’ve got to give each one of them a fair shake. We’ve got to give each one of them reps, their chance, and I think we’re going to do that. After that, we’re going to evaluate them every day on completion, on mistakes, on what they did right.
“That rotation can change daily. It can be one thing one day, [and] the next day, a completely different rotation. I want it to be a healthy competition. I want the kids to compete, especially at the quarterback position.”
Schultz said during Southland Conference Media Day on July 20 a starter may not be named until the day before the opener. But on Sunday, he elaborated on what he’s looking for from his No. 1 quarterback.
“The guy that goes out there and starts practicing and practices well and the team believes in, that guy’s going to be the quarterback,” he said. “We’ve got some good kids who know the offense coming back. We’re just going to have to see how that plays out.”
Allen, Morse and McKenzie are back, with Robinson moved to tight end and recent West Orange-Stark star Jack Dallas beginning camp. Earp graduated, and Cox and Turner are no longer with the team. (Their reasons for departure were never announced.)
McKenzie, of Corpus Christi, transferred to Lamar from Fullerton (California) Junior College just before preseason camp in 2015, but has yet to play a game for the Cardinals. He did come back from injury to participate in Schultz’s first spring drills in Beaumont.
“My confidence stayed the same,” McKenzie said. “If anything, I think it raised my confidence because it’s not many people who’ve gone through back-to-back injuries in back-to-back seasons. Mentally, I’m a lot stronger than I was last year.”
The injuries have not changed McKenzie’s playing style as a run-pass threat or how he practices.
“The only thing that’s different is, I’m wearing a brace. That’s about it,” he said.
Playing the final four games helped Morse adjust to the speed of the college game, but the speed of Lamar’s offense under new coordinator Dan Dodd is even faster.
“It’s even more high-tempo,” Morse said. ” He wants the ball snapped even 10 to 12 seconds, so that’s moving. You have to relay signals, get the O-line going and think about what you’re doing pre-snap. It’s hard, but it’s something I’m willing to do to get the top spot and lead this team to some wins.”
Allen got his first look at Dodd’s hurry-up offense when he was a quarterback at New Mexico State. The Aggies compete in the Sun Belt Conference, where Dodd’s last team, Arkansas State, has won five of the last six championships.
“The playcalling is — I’m just thinking back to when we were in meeting rooms when they first got here — it was like, wow this was amazing, and just thinking back to when I was a freshman at New Mexico State, we played against Arkansas State, so I got to see the offense from the other side,” Allen said. ” I remember thinking to myself, man I would want to play in an offense like that. Here I am. The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Allen called Dodd’s offense the best he’s seen, and McKenzie welcomes the added speed to the game.
“I think people are going to be surprised with how conditioned we are and how fast we go,” McKenzie said.
I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

email author More by I.C.