Pettus emerges as leader in quarterback race

Published 7:02 pm Friday, June 26, 2009

As the Tigers headed into the offseason, the biggest question mark facing the team punctuated the quarterback depth chart.

The odds on favorite to serve as Rick Boone’s successor was obviously junior Ben Pettus, who served as the team’s No. 2 signal caller as a sophomore.

“That’s our guy,” senior A-back Anthony Hardy said of Pettus. “He’s a competitor. He’s going to come to work. Us being older guys and knowing how it is on the field, we feel that he is our guy. He fits in.”

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While there were initially uncertainties surrounding the starting job, Pettus reportedly put to rest all doubts during spring practice and has since tightened his stranglehold on the position this summer.

“Right now, Ben is our No. 1 guy,” Demopolis head coach Tom Causey said. “He’s stepped out in front of the rest of (the quarterbacks).”

Pettus has been taking the majority of the snaps with the first team offense while reportedly showing improve poise and consistency during the process.

“He’s a tough kid who takes shots and then bounces back up and never lets anybody know that he’s hurt,” Causey said of Pettus’ tenacity and physical toughness, attributes he believes will allow the young passer to successfully transition into the starting quarterback role.

For Pettus, who never previously considered himself a quarterback, the adjustment has come more quickly than expected.

“I’m actually liking it a whole lot better than I thought,” Pettus, the youngest of three, said. “I thought growing up that I was supposed to be a receiver like my brothers.”

As he has adjusted to the nuances of the position, Pettus has found his task eased by the presence of senior targets Hardy, Fred Irby and Larry Cobb.

“It brings spoiled to a new definition,” Pettus said of the luxury of having such players at his disposal. “You throw it a mile to the left, a mile to the right or a mile too far and they’re making the catch. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

While he has found some success early, Pettus concedes that there remain strides he must take in order to be ready to be the Tigers’ No. 1 guy.

“i probably need to improve on knowing what everybody else is going to do. That’s the biggest part of this offense is being on the same page with the coaches,” Pettus said while also acknowledging some of the intangible pressure that accompanies the position. “Realizing that everybody is looking up to you. You have to take control of the offense.”

Causey believes that his young quarterback will find success but also understands that there is only one way he’ll grow into the position.

“He needs live game reps with the first team,” Causey said. “He can only get that when (the AHSAA) allows us to put on pads.”

“We think that he will get to where he needs to be,” Hardy said. “He’s going to get better every week. He plays off the field, but on the field, he likes to win.”

Even though Pettus has yet to obtain the live game reps he needs to fortify his experience, Causey attested to the fact that the junior has already claimed his team’s respect.

“Him having the respect of his teammates, he’s got to have that. They’ve got to know that it is his huddle,” Causey said. “I think Ben is a selfless guy who definitely puts the team ahead of him.”

“I think he brings great leadership,” quarterbacks coach Kyle Williams said. “All the boys look to him. He’s a team guy, everybody likes him. I’m comfortable with him (at the quarterback spot). He’s smart and he’s as tough as can be. He’s just got to keep improving.”

Behind Pettus, the Tigers have seen a number of players competing for the No. 2 slot on the depth chart. Included among them are sophomore Logan Holley and freshman Tucker Jones.

Causey said a front-runner has yet to emerge from that group of players but that each athlete has been turning in maximum effort.