COVINGTON, Ga. — The quarterback – it is a position in football that comes with some of the greatest responsibilities on the entire team.
When you are the quarterback of a football team, you are responsible for most of the team’s offensive attack, whether you are throwing the ball or calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.
Not surprising enough is the fact that when a football team is struggling at the quarterback position, the entire offense and team usually struggles too.
This case has been proven several times over in the Alcovy Tigers football program, which has had issues with the quarterback position seemingly since after 2013 – the last season Alcovy made the playoffs.
Over the last couple of years specifically, injuries and inconsistencies have dogged Alcovy signal callers. In 2017 Cam Anderson got off to a good start before going down to injury and giving way to then-junior Nicholas Simmons.
Simmons played admirably in Anderson’s stead, and seemed to have a grasp on the quarterback job for the 2018 season. But a late-summer transfer showed up, injuries to both players and an offense that never quite came together all combined for a dismal offensive output.
The entire Alcovy offense went the entire year without completing a single touchdown pass.
However, one highly touted sophomore seems ready to turn those fortunes around, and he might just be the most unlikely candidate to do so.
As a freshman, MJ Stroud was regarded as one of the best receivers in the area. This year, however, new Alcovy head coach Jason Dukes believes Stroud can line up under center and put the team in the best position possible to win games.
“MJ understands the meaning of team,” Dukes said, “He understands that our team has a better opportunity to be successful right now with him at the quarterback position.”
But it wasn’t an easy transition for Stroud, especially moving from an offensive weapon to the guy who throws to those weapons.
“Well, he’s had to learn a lot.” Dukes said. “When you go from being a receiver, you seemingly only have to worry about your position and what your individual route is. Now that he’s the quarterback, he’s got a whole progression of receivers he has to go through. He has to know what protection calls to make, too, so the learning curve has been huge for him.”
It was also not an easy transition for Stroud in the sense that what he wanted to be and what he was told he needed to be were two different things. Most folks close to the program will tell you Stroud still has playing receiver in his heart. But he also wants to see Alcovy become successful as well – hence his commitment to being whatever he’s asked to be for his team.
“He’s a teenage boy,” Dukes said. “You know, a lot of times change is a difficult thing for anyone, even adults. It was a big change for him, because going into this year he knew he was going to be the featured receiver in our program, and rightfully so. But then, all of the sudden, he gets a new coach and then that new coach is asking him to be something that is different from what he had in mind."
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound sophomore caught a team-high 14 passes for 195 yards, despite playing in just seven games. He flashed big-play ability in several games, making a 43-yard catch-and-run against Lakeside and then snagging a 22-yard pass the next week against Evans.
But it didn’t take long for Dukes to take notice of Stroud’s penchant for making people miss, as well as the kind of speed to make would-be tacklers whiff. But Dukes also said that the move could bode well for Stroud’s long term football prospects.
He noted that Stroud making that kind of transition shows not only what kind of player he is, but also the kind of player he wants to be.
“What has been so great for us is that he’s an extremely bright kid who has an innate thirst for knowledge,” Dukes said. “He doesn’t just want to be a good receiver or a good quarterback, he wants to be a great football player.”