Aug. 31, 2011
BEAUMONT - The most-often asked question during Lamar University's preseason football camp has been who will be the starting quarterback.
The cloudy issue is that, although the Cardinals' season opener is at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Provost Umphrey Stadium, the question remains unanswered.
Clearly, however, regardless of who head coach Ray Woodard names as his starting quarterback for Saturday's game against Texas College, the job will be in capable hands.
"It could come down to a game-time decision, but we'll know more later this week," said Todd Whitten, Lamar's offensive coordinator before departing for the Tuesday funeral of Woodard's father in Corrigan. "All of the quarterbacks have done well in our preseason work, and although each has had to deal with minor injury issues, they have all received equal snaps with the first offensive line. They have all worked well with the first O-line."
The candidates for Saturday's first Lamar offensive snap are senior Andre Bevil, sophomore Doug Prewitt and redshirt freshman Jeremy Johnson. Bevil started eight games last season and passed for 2,013 yards; Prewitt started three games after Bevil suffered a shoulder injury, and Johnson, is a blue-chip recruit out of Silsbee High School who transferred to Lamar last spring after spending a redshirt season at West Virginia University.
"Andre has worked hard throughout camp and has continued to be more consistent," said Whitten of the 6-2, 175-pound product of West Orange-Stark by way of Navarro College. "He has done a good job of taking care of the football.
"It's easy to see he has an extra year under his belt, and every day he gets more and more comfortable with what we want to do offensively. He continues to throw the long ball well."
Bevil completed 157 of 288 passes in 2010 and set a school record when he passed for 429 yards in the Cardinals' season opener against McNeese State. He also had a school-record 34 completions in Lamar's 29-28 upset of Southeastern Louisiana.
"Andre has been with most of the guys longer than Doug and Jeremy, and everyone seems to be on the same page with him," said Whitten. "He had several really brilliant games last season. He's a very accurate passer, and he has an especially good touch on his deep ball."
Prewitt, a 5-11, 175-pound product of Beaumont Kelly High School, started the final three games last season and completed 60 of 96 passes (62.5 percent) for 725 yards and four touchdowns.
"Doug was a guy who came in late last season without having a lot of reps at quarterback, because we were playing him at wide receiver," said Whitten. "He's a really competitive guy, though, and he did an excellent job of picking things up and filling in for Andre.
"The more reps he's received during camp the better he has gotten. He did remarkably well in our late games last season, especially against South Dakota (a 24-20 victory), and we feel that with more reps he's going to develop into a good quarterback. You have to remember he had to go through a crash course last fall, because he wasn't practicing a lot at quarterback until after Andre got hurt."
Johnson, a 6-2, 185-pounder who earned rave reviews for his performances at Silsbee HS, is now going to get his chances on a bigger stage, and Whitten feels he's up to the challenge.
"For Jeremy, it's been like learning a new language in a fairly short time," said Whitten of Johnson's adjustment period to Lamar's multiple-set offense. "He has continued to improve and to get more consistent.
"He brings a different element to our offense with his foot speed, and he has a good arm, as well. It's just a matter of him getting more comfortable with the receivers, and then it's going to be let's go play."
With the Cardinals adding such huge offensive linemen as 6-foot-5, 370-pound guard Daniel Campbell, 6-8, 305-pound tackle Anthony Oden and 6-3, 300-pound center Taylor Davis during the offseason recruiting process, it tends to mean the load will lighten for the quarterbacks this season.
"There's now question that our ability to run the ball better this season over what we were able to do last season will help the quarterbacks," said Whitten. "It will give the wideouts more one-on-one situations and take a lot of heat off of the quarterbacks.
"We're going to see more people in the box committed to stopping the run, and that will open up more options for the passing game. There's no doubt we will have the capabilities to be a much more effective offense this season. We're going to be so much improved up front, and that's going to help everyone, especially the quarterbacks and the receivers.