ROCKINGHAM – With the transition of Richmond Senior High School’s football program to new head coach Bryan Till’s system, there comes new plays, schemes and expectations. But the most pressing issue heading into the season may be who is going to captain the offense as the Raiders’ quarterback.
Despite the players having the week off, Till and his coaching staff have been busy with trying to determine who will shoulder those responsibilities. On Wednesday and Thursday this week, RSHS coaches attended the North Carolina Coaches Association annual coaching clinic, which offers instruction and allows discussion for the upcoming season. Also, coaches are made aware of all rule changes for 2017.
Even though the some may enjoy the weeklong hiatus from the heat of summer workouts, Till made it clear how, though the mental break is good, it affects his players’ conditioning entering the start of official practices, which convene on Monday, July 31st.
“From a mental relief standpoint, it allows everyone to relax a little bit,” Till said in an exclusive interview with The Richmond Observer. “But from a conditioning standpoint, when you think about the heat during the next couple weeks when we get started, I don’t like it.”
As the Raiders look to regain a state championship-caliber team, Till and quarterback coach Jay Jones have narrowed down the search to three players; but there is currently no clear-cut winner. Senior, and last season’s backup quarterback, Kaleb Douglas brings the most experience into camp, while junior Jada Edwards and incoming freshman Caleb Hood have been raising eyebrows all summer. All three players have been in consideration since spring workouts.
Till made a note that all three quarterbacks have put on a great showing. Douglas, who had taken snaps for the Raiders last season, is ahead of the other two in regards to executing plays and understanding the expectations. But Edwards and Hood, both of whom are “extremely athletic” aren’t making it easy for the returning backup and upperclassman.
The Raiders offense, which will be coordinated by Brad Denson, will operate on a run-pass option. This style of offense gives the Raiders the possibility of running or passing the ball on every play. In searching for the next starter, Till and his staff are looking for an athlete who can properly assess game situations and deliver with accuracy and confidence.
“Accuracy, to me, is paramount,” Till said. “We have an option to throw on the majority of our plays. Our quarterbacks need to be accurate when we run the option in order to be successful.”
This task, especially with the recent change in coaching, leads to being very strategic and requires attention to the most minute details. Till and Jones are assessing all three prospects using a plethora of physical and analytical techniques. Everything from footwork, to comfortability, to leadership are being evaluated. The use of film is also heavily implemented, as even some coaches wear sunglasses equipped with video capabilities to capture every move. Till stressed the heavy emphasis his staff has on the analytical side of things, documenting data for every conceivable aspect of the sport.
Jones has been intensely involved in the development of the Raiders’ quarterbacks. Along with sending them to specialized quarterback camps, Jones meets daily with his quarterbacks to prep them by going over the playbook and teaching them everything they need to know.
But as full practices with pads get underway at the end of the month, Till still can’t make a final decision until he sees how each potential starting quarterback handles live action. The naming will be contingent upon how well the quarterback reacts to pocket pressure, reading the defense and executing plays.
“During the second week of practice, we really have to find out who plays well when it’s real football,” Till said. “It’s going to be big to see who reacts the quickest, who reacts the best, who is accurate with guys in their face… We really have to focus on preseason camp to see when the bullets start flying, who’s going to be the man.”
On a lighter note, a moment that has made Till proud of his team this summer was during a seven-on-seven scrimmage last week. As they battled the heat, Raiders players hustled on and off the field, even noting that the other team was walking. It’s a small thing that lets Till know his players are committed to him, each other, and the Raiders mentality.
The Raiders will open their preseason schedule with a scrimmage at Cape Fear High School in Cumberland County on Tuesday, August 9, 2017. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.