Garden City, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-At the junior college ranks, quarterback competitions are almost as common as fleas on dogs. So it should come as no surprise that Busters’ second-year coach Matt Miller is embracing this year’s battle:
“We’ve got some really strong guys at that position,” Miller said. “I’m pretty excited.”
And so began the most interesting storyline on the first day of fall camp at the new multi-sports complex.
Grace’s absence opens the door at quarterback
When Nick Marshall left Miller’s spread offense for Auburn’s run-happy attack in 2013, the revolving door that is the quarterback position at Garden City Community College was wide open once again. And when Makail Grace, Nick’s cousin, made the trip from Wilcox County High School in Georgia to Western Kansas last fall, the presumptive thought was that he would take over the reigns.
Unfortunately that plan never materialized, and Grace moved to safety while Akeem Jones won the starting quarterback spot. Eight months later, Jones was gone-opening the door for Grace to move to the offense.
The move appeared seamless, even after a so-so spring game. But some off-the-field issues forced Grace out before the summer ever started. Now Miller is back at square one.
“I’m not going to stand here and act like we’ll be better without Makail,” Miller said. “But we will move on, and we’ll be okay.”
But in truth, the Busters will need steady play behind center in order to compete in the ultra-competitive Jayhawk Conference.
Quarterbacks inconsistent on day one
If anyone expected Saturday to be the day that one of the new quarterbacks took anyone’s breath away, you must have been on fantasy island.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” Miller said. “We have a lot of stuff to improve on over the next three weeks.”
Three quarterbacks took snaps on day one: Tyler Lasalle, the Holcomb product who hasn’t played competitively in two years…Bryce Gemmel-the dual-threat signal caller and multi-sport athlete (signed to play baseball with Busters in the spring) from Sharpsburg, GA…and Alex Gomez, whose 2,107 yards passing and 26 touchdowns as a senior last season, led Elkhart to the 2A playoffs.
During team drills, Gomez displayed that strong arm he put on display as a member of the Wildcats-especially on a few out routes towards the sideline. That excitement however; tapered off in 7-on-7, when the true freshman misfired on all nine pass attempts and was nearly intercepted several times. Putting that in perspective, he threw just eight picks in 10 games in 2013.
Gemmel was the most solid of the bunch-completing 4-of-7 passes, including a touchdown.
“It felt really good,” said Gemmel, whose decision to come to Garden City was based on Nick Marshall’s success. “I’m starting to understand what it is they’re trying to do here.”
His most impressive completion of the day came on a bomb down the middle into triple coverage. It epitomized a day where Gemmel was superb, while his competitors were not.
Lasalle, who has been on the pine the last 24 months, was the only quarterback in camp that played in the spring game. But his experience with Miller’s offense didn’t lend him much help on the first day; he was 0-for-7.
The bad news for Miller is that one of the favorites to land the job, wasn’t on the field on day one. Freshman Danarius Graham, who hails from Pompano Beach, Fla., was still finalizing his paperwork-he’s expected to be in action next week…sophomore wide receiver Brandon Snell was not in uniform-he’s waiting on physical paperwork; he’s expected back Monday