Quarterback battle to be key in Spring


Sean Hastings

Jacob Ivey Jr., who will be a redshirt sophomore in the fall, catches a pass in the Panthers’ first spring practice of 2018. Coach Kim Dameron said the first practice was a good starting point that the Panthers can build off of throughout the rest of spring and into the season.

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

Playing time at every position on the Eastern football team, quarterback through line, will be up for grabs and battled for according to head coach Kim Dameron during Spring football,  which began Tuesday for the Panthers.

The battle at quarterback is shaping up to be one of the more closely watched races as Eastern has four quarterbacks in camp, including two transfers, all competing for the starting job next fall.

The group of quarterbacks, which includes returners Scotty Gilkey and Jaylon Banks and welcomes Tulane transfer Johnathan Brantley and Navarro Junior College transfer Harry Woodbery, were all receiving equal amounts of reps on the first day of practice.

As far as what Dameron is looking for from the group early on, the ideals are fairly simple.

“Guys who run the offense and know what their doing,” Dameron said. “But, guys who take care of the ball, move the team and score points. But, right now I am looking for them to get better every day. This was day one. I thought it was a good starting point. We’ll see how much better we can get.”

The even number of snaps for all four quarterbacks is all a part of a plan of Dameron’s to not have any “preconceived ideas about who is going to be where or what.”

Gilkey, who started in five games for Eastern last year, took reps first for the Panthers because he is the quarterback from last year, Dameron said.

“Those other (quarterbacks) have to show they are better than him first. So as that goes, we will see,” Dameron said. “All four of them are getting reps, you saw today, they probably got the same reps for all four quarterbacks. That to me is great because know we’re developing all of them.” 

Brantley and Woodbery are both stepping in to new programs, but the transition for Woodbery learning the offense could be easier as he played with Eastern’s new offensive coordinator Scott Parr at Navarro Junior College.

“Brantley has to pick it up mentally and quickly and all that stuff. But, I just want both of them (Brantley and Woodbery) to come in and compete their hind end off and same thing with Scotty and Jaylon and just kind of see where it goes,” Dameron said.

The Panthers’ new offensive coordinator Scott Parr will be transitioning into an air raid style offense, which means many players will be adapting to a new style of play and practices that are more up tempo.

The players adjusting to the changes is something Dameron says will take all spring.

“It won’t be as good at the end of the spring as we want it to be, but it’s going to be better than today,” Dameron said. “They’ve got to take it upon themselves in the summer to do their work and then fall camp and all that.”

“We’ve got time, and I thought today was a good start. I was encouraged. I liked the practice schedule. I like the things that Coach Parr has and the way we’re practicing. Everything we do is high tempo and is about throwing and catching, so we can’t help but get better,” Dameron added.

Entering camp, the quarterbacks and receivers have been having optional throwing sessions with one another, according to receiver Aaron Gooch.

“It’s just about chemistry and getting chemistry with the new quarterbacks, them getting adjusted to us and our speed, different things like that,” Gooch said. “It’s all going to take time. It’s only day one, but I feel like once everything gets up and going, it’s going to be pretty good.”

Receiver is one of the positions Dameron specifically mentioned as having a good battle for playing time playing out in.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]