Hawkins to see time under center
By Greg Sullivan
The first thing Bulldogs Head Coach Bill Malone brought up when asked for his impression of Friday's spring scrimmage was the play of rising sophomore quarterback J.D. Hawkins.
"He put the ball on the money every time he threw it," Malone said of the upstart youngster. "With John Dustin's performance, I believe we've found two quarterbacks."
Going into the preseason, everyone knew that Morgan County had at least one legitimate quarterback on their roster. Rising junior Terence Harper took the vast majority of the snaps last season and proved he has what it takes to lead a competitive team.
With Harper at the helm in 2007, the Bulldogs appeared in the Class AA state playoffs and won the 8-AA South sub-region. In addition, Harper led the team to a fourth quarter come-from-behind win at rival Greene County.
Harper, however, was forced to watch Friday's scrimmage game from the sideline with a separated shoulder while Hawkins saw the majority of the action, turning the heads of the team's coaching staff.
Malone makes it clear that he doesn't see any possible quarterback controversy with the apparent emergence of Hawkins. Rather, he said he envisions a platoon situation that he expects to benefit his team.
His players, Malone said, will be expected to handle however coaches choose to deal with the quarterback position as it fits into the team’s offense.
"Right now I would be furious if anyone would suggest there is a quarterback controversy," Malone said. "[The players] want the best player out there and they trust us to make that decision."
Malone regularly refers to Harper as the best overall athlete on the Dogs' roster and said knowing that he has two capable quarterbacks may give him and his coaching staff some liberty to use Harper in different ways across the lineup on occasion.
Harper came in for some key defensive plays last season and in the past has proven to be a solid player in the Dogs' secondary.
This new revelation, however, doesn't necessarily mean that Harper won't find himself as the team's regular starter at quarterback come this fall like he was last season.
"I'm not ready to commit to anything except that we have two quarterbacks," Malone said.
"[This situation] doesn't put a question mark on what Terence can and cannot do," Malone said. "They really are two completely different types of quarterbacks."
Harper has proven to be a threat both through the air and on the ground. Meanwhile, Malone said that Hawkins has other assets aside from his passing accuracy.
"I think his toughness coupled with the way he threw the football [on Friday] certainly bodes well for our offense."
What do they have in common, though? For starters, Malone foresees putting both players to use this season.
He added, "For the first time since 1995, we have two quarterbacks."
Bulldogs Offensive Coordinator John Robbins called Harper, along with returning fullback Ryan Glosson, leaders on offense, but he too liked what he saw from Hawkins Friday.
"Hawkins also proved that he’ll be ready to contribute offensively on Friday nights by turning in a great spring and Red and White game performance," Robbins said in an e-mail.
Malone appeared particularily excited about the possible flexibility with having to usable quarterbacks at his disposal.
The exact details of a possible platoon have yet to be ironed out. Malone said he expects to know more after seeing how things shake out this fall.
"It'll likely be situation to situation," he said as to who will be under center at any given time.
Still, though, the exact amount of playing time each player will receive is somewhat undetermined with still some months between now and the first game this fall.
As for fans who may wonder how the two talented young players will spend their time on the field, Malone puts it this way: "I'm hoping that the people in this community know me well enough to know that the guy who's most committed--and both of these guys are [committed]--are the players who play any position."
Either way, Malone appears pleased by the possibilities of the current situation, especially considering he has made a habit of praising the attitudes of both Harper and Hawkins in the last year or so.