COVINGTON, Ga. — Fun fact about Alcovy’s spring game quarterback MJ Stroud — he still wants to be a wide receiver.
You can’t blame him when you think about it. The 6-foot-1 soon-to-be sophomore stepped onto the Alcovy High School campus and became an immediate contributor as a freshman. He was the team's leading receiver, and sometimes the lone bright spot for a Tigers offense that struggled frequently in 2018.
He recorded 14 catches for 195 yards — both team highs — in seven games of action last year. And anyone who watched him play couldn’t help but think of the possibilities for the young receiver going forward.
There was one problem, however, with the notion of his going forward as a wideout — both starting quarterbacks from last year were seniors and no true heir apparent seemed to be in place.
When new Alcovy head coach Jason Dukes was asked on day one of spring practice how he’d approach his quarterback situation while also installing a new, fast-paced spread offense, Dukes played coy and, with a wry smile, said he and his staff had some things up their collective sleeve.
Enter Stroud’s position change.
Stroud drew the start and most of the snaps at quarterback in Friday’s 7-0 spring game win at Woodland. It was his first game action at the position since he was 10 years old while playing for a rec ball travel team.
On Friday he showed flashes of the athleticism that makes him an appealing option at the position when he broke off a couple of first down runs and displayed a wiggle and shake that special ball carriers contain.
He showed some arm potential, even on a couple of incompletions. And then he displayed his greenness at the position after tossing a couple of interceptions on plays where he all but telegraphed his passes, making it easy pickings (literally) for Woodland DBs.
All things considered, Stroud received glowing reviews from both his head coach and teammates.
“(Friday night) we were playing with a quarterback who hasn’t played quarterback in a very long time, and he’s got a lot of growth to do,” Dukes said. “But he’s a smart kid. He’s a committed kid, and he’s a kid who’ll do anything for his team, and he’s a kid who wants to get better every day.”
Arguably, Stroud’s best moment came midway through the second quarter when he engineered an impressive scoring drive that was punctuated by a 36-yard touchdown pass to Adrian Robinson on a screen play. It turned out to be the only score of the night. But for Robinson, it was enough for him to feel good about Stroud’s potential.
“I love it,” Robinson said regarding Stroud’s spring game performance and being on the receiving end of his first touchdown pass. “MJ stepped up. He’s only (going to be) a sophomore, and we asked him to come over to quarterback, and he’s embraced it. He didn’t give any mouth back, and he’s filling the role. We need it, and I love it.”
Interestingly, it’s the first passing touchdown Alcovy’s had in any kind of a football game since Nick Simmons threw a scoring strike in a 21-10 loss to Greenbrier back on November 3, 2017.
Stroud acknowledges that he wasn’t too fond of the position switch when Dukes and the coaching staff first approached him with it. But Stroud also said he acquiesced without hesitation because it’s team over everything.
“At first, I wasn’t too excited about it at all,” Stroud said. “My natural position is wide receiver, and that’s what I had my mind set on playing when the season first started. But I realized I had to do what I had to do for my team, so I went ahead and played it.”
Despite some mistakes, Stroud gave himself a passing grade behind center.
“It was some stuff I can definitely work on,” he said, “but for just now starting, I’d say I did pretty good.”
Dukes wasn’t complaining either. And he knows Stroud still has visions of catching touchdowns rather than throwing them, but the coach also sees too much ability in him to keep him boxed in to one position, especially when there are crucial team needs.
“MJ’s an incredible athlete, being just a freshman,” Dukes said. “His stature. His frame. He’s a smart kid and can really make some things happen with his feet, and he’s willing to learn. All those things put together make him a perfect choice to use at quarterback. Now we’re gonna have some other options going into the year, but I can’t be more proud of him, because he got us through the spring, he got us through the spring game and just did a really, really good job.”
As for Stroud, he said he has no problem pushing back his personal desires for the betterment of the team as Alcovy moves into a crucial time of summer development.
“Yeah, eventually I’d like to play wide receiver again,” he said. “But right now, I’ll just play quarterback and help my team out in any way I can.”