JCCHS quarterback race carrying over to Fri. scrimmage
Jackson County’s Friday night scrimmage against Athens Christian will be the last preseason opportunity for Jalen Banks and Kevin Daniel to state their case for the starting quarterback job.
Panther coaches are still trying to settle on a first-team signal caller to run their pass-friendly spread offense heading into the scrimmage.
“We’ll see what they can do under live fire,” coach Billy Kirk said.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Jackson County will operate off of a script on offense. Banks will get the first 10 snaps and Daniel will get the next 10.
While both are competing hard in practice and bringing a lot to the table, that’s where the similarities end. “They’re really completely opposite,” Kirk said.
In fact, the coach uses the differing styles of NFL hall of fame and Super Bowl winning quarterbacks John Elway and Steve Young to illustrate the point.
Banks — the quieter of the two players, according to Kirk —— takes more of the Elway approach to the position. He has the better arm, is a playmaker and thrives on instinct. Banks also has six games of starting experience, taking over for an injured Alex Crawford last year at quarterback.
Daniel, by contrast, would be the Steve Young in the analogy. Daniel is a mobile quarterback who thinks through a play and is good at making his reads.
Though he may not have the game experience, the sophomore made huge strides over the summer at a three-day quarterback camp over the summer in Chattanooga, Tenn., Kirk said.
“Either of them can thrive in this system,” Kirk said.
Now, Panther coaches have to decide which quarterback will pull the trigger.
Kirk said both quarterbacks, though in a major battle for playing time, are good friends and have been supportive of each other throughout the process. The scrimmage and the chance to go against someone else under the lights Friday will ultimately tip the scales in one players’ favor, Kirk said, heading into the Aug. 27 opener against Johnson.
Jackson County has had more competition at positions in the preseason than ever before, Kirk said, but quarterback is still the area that’s most unsettled.
“That’s kind of the last place we need to see more stuff on film,” Kirk said.
Kirk said that senior Nick Oney continues to impress, “which isn’t anything new.”
Oney, who is drawing offers from small schools throughout the southeast, played cornerback last year, but coaches may use him more as a defensive back-linebacker hybrid this year.
Meanwhile a newcomer, Billy Manis, continues to make waves at linebacker. Manis, an all-region performer at Habersham Central before transferring to Jackson County, has raised the level of play around him.
“He’s really stepped up,” Kirk said.
Elsewhere, Alex Crawford has moved from quarterback to the defensive backfield and continues to make a solid transition to free safety, Kirk said.
Kirk said the team, in general, is ready to go against “a different color jersey” in Friday’s scrimmage against Athens Christian after three weeks of preseason camp.
Varsity teams will play the first half. JV players will enter in the second half, with varsity players returning in the fourth quarter.
Everyone will play, which means coaches will have the chance to evaluate everyone on film. For players vying for playing time, this is a last chance to impress before the Aug. 27 season opener with Johnson.
“We hope to find a few surprises,” Kirk said.
The scrimmage means also that Jackson County has transitioned out of preseason practice mode to its typical game-week routine, which is a change of pace.
“We stopped trying to beat each other up and now we’re just trying to refine it,” Kirk said.
Kirk said his players are “jacked” for Friday’s scrimmage and suspects that the community is too.
“I think our fans are just as excited as we are as coaches … I think the stands will be packed Friday,” Kirk said.
NOTES: Admission to Friday’s scrimmage is $5. Regular season ticket prices are $7 at the gate.
Alex Nanigan is entering his third year as a starter on Jackson County's defensive line.