Only four schools in The Herald’s 12-school coverage area return starting quarterbacks in 2017.
South Pointe’s Derion Kendrick and York’s Ethan Mitchell are the only firmly planted starting QBs in that small group.
Kendrick, committed to Clemson, is a huge reason why the Stallions are favorites to win a fourth consecutive state title in 2017.
“It gives you somewhat of a calming feeling knowing you’ve got the guy that’s done what he’s already done,” said South Pointe coach Strait Herron. “The most important thing is he’s gotten that experience of big games and of playing the tough position.”
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But, Herron added, “one injury and you’re in the same boat as everyone else.”
And York is ahead of the local field too with Mitchell back. He took over as the starter early last season and led the Cougars to six wins in their final 10 games. Expect much more offensively from the Cougars and Mitchell this fall.
York and South Pointe aside, the QB situations aren’t as rosy.
Clover brings back QB Garrett Miller but he’ll orchestrate a totally different offensive scheme from the one the Blue Eagles used since the early 1990s. Indian Land brings back two signal callers, David Loughry and Jay Hildreth, that started games in 2016 but have to compete with each other and a new transfer in a three-way battle this preseason.
Six of the eight starting QBs that graduated will play college football. It’s not easy replacing the likes of Trey Keels (Lewisville, Presbyterian), Dre Robinson (Rock Hill, Johnson C. Smith), Malik Williams (Chester, Appalachian State), Gage Moloney (Northwestern, James Madison), Ryan DeLuca (Fort Mill, Furman) and Kirk Rygol (Nation Ford, North Greenville).
Moloney became the fifth Northwestern QB in a row to reach college sports, with four of those - Will King, Justin Worley, Mason Rudolph and Moloney - earning football scholarships. Whichever Trojan follows Moloney will face unfair pressure from the school’s tremendous recent QB legacy.
“That’s why kids like Tanner McKinney and Dustin Noller want to come here and play quarterback,” said Northwestern coach David Pierce. “We’ve got kids that have come here because it’s Quarterback U. That’s the type of system they aspire to fill the shoes of. I just don’t want to the put the Air Raid, Quarterback U. legacy of the last 10 years on their shoulders.”
Chester won’t be able to fully replace Williams - he set the school’s single-season TD record last year - so coach Victor Floyd opted for the best athlete and team leader and stuck senior John Erby at QB. Like Williams, Keels set numerous school passing records at Lewisville and made the QB spot one that coach Will Mitchell didn’t have to worry about often.
“That was our big thing this summer, figuring out who would fill that role,” said Mitchell. “Who we have at quarterback shapes our offense.”