Warhorses open the season with options at quarterback
A glance at the numbers - 1,080 passing yards and 15 touchdowns - makes it easy to wonder how Warhorse senior quarterback Audun Meyers could be sharing snaps in practice just days before the 2018 football season.
Then, a tight spiral from 6-foot-3-inch sophomore Caleb Scott zips directly into the hands of a slot receiver in stride on a slant route and the answer is clear; there is a good old-fashioned quarterback competition taking place inside Warhorse Stadium.
In his 5-foot-11-inch, 145-pound frame, Meyers brings every intangible you could possibly want at the position, according to Owen football head coach Nathan Padgett, in his fourth season.
“It’s Audun’s position to lose,” Padgett said. “He had a great season last year.”
As Meyers confidently reads the field and makes a well-timed throw to a receiver’s outside shoulder in practice, it’s clear he possesses physical tools of his own. His touch allows him to time his throws well and his mobility commands respect from defenders, Padgett said. He also has a thorough understanding of the offense employed by offensive coordinator Anthony Lee.
“He’s our general on the field,” Padgett said of Meyers. “He’s played in Coach Lee’s system for several years so he has good command of the offense.”
It may be hard to ignore what Meyers brings to the table, but it’s impossible to miss the physical presence of Scott, who runs as hard as he throws, Padgett said.
“He’s a strong kid,” Padgett said of the sophomore. “He’s a hard downhill runner and he has a large frame so he’s not easy for defenders to get down.”
If tackling Scott isn’t hard enough for opposing defenses, they also have to worry about his ability to slide a throw right past them before anyone realizes he’s released the ball. Meyers, who has known Scott for years, pays close attention to his fellow quarterback when he takes his reps.
“This whole experience is making us both better,” Meyers said. “We help each other and talk about football a lot. I consider Caleb a close friend and I feel like we learn from each other.”
Scott led the junior varsity team to a 6-4 record a season ago. He attended several quarterback camps over the summer as he continued to develop at the position.
“I’m competitive,” he said. “Obviously I want to play but really I’m honored to have a chance to be out there with an opportunity to contribute to the varsity team. It’s a dream of mine.”
While Meyers seems a likely choice to be the starter, Scott could be featured in packages designed to showcase his talent.
“We’ve worked on that a little,” Padgett said. “If one of them lines up at quarterback then the other one will still be out there lined up at another position.”
Meyers has taken reps with the wide receivers, a group that includes his step brother Frank Walsh and fellow senior Ty Davidson. His time lining up at the position has helped him develop a better understanding of how to work with the group when he’s playing quarterback.
“I’ve been talking to Frankie about this recently,” Meyers said. “Seeing things from the receiver’s perspective has helped me understand where I like the ball on certain routes, so when I’m at quarterback I know where to put it for them.”
Padgett describes the receivers as “playmakers,” who can score from nearly anywhere on the field in a variety of ways, but the group is just one of the things that should help the Warhorses improve on their 1-9 record from a season ago. Meyers agrees with his coach.
“This is the most confident I’ve been going into a season since I’ve played football,” he said. “Everybody is out there competing and this team has a strong work ethic. Everybody is focused on winning that first game against Enka.”
Senior Otis Mallory, who is known for delivering powerful hits on defense and will see a lot more playing time at running back this season, said the Warhorses are focused this year.
"We should win games this year," he said. "You can tell that the team is hungry but it's our job to get out there and execute."
Mallory was the second-leading tackler for the Warhorses last year with 79 from the outside linebacker position. He led the team with 10 tackles for losses and 5 sacks, but as the season progressed opponents began running away from him.
"We moved him to the inside (linebacker) position for this season," Padgett said. "He's got enough speed and explosiveness to get to the ball from there no matter which direction they go You can't run away from Otis."
To help keep blockers off of Mallory, the Warhorses will add a fourth defensive lineman to their base defense, which should allow the linebacker to make plays on the ball, the coach said.
Mallory will split carries with sophomore Blake Roberts on offense, Padgett said.
"Otis is big and strong and defenses won't have an easy time bringing him down," Padgett said. "But with Blake, you have a smaller guy who is a little more shifty and agile. They complement each other well."
An improved offensive line should help Mallory and Roberts pick up yards on the ground this season and leave time for Meyers or Scott to find open receivers, according to Padgett, who believes the Warhorses will be competitive in the Western Highlands Conference this season.
"I think this group understands that 1-9 isn't Owen football and having that kind of season last year really ate at them," he said. "What we know going into this season is that the rest of the conference better now sleep on us."