East Robertson sophomore Taylor Groves was going to turn heads at receiver this season.
Instead, he will direct the Indian offense as a quarterback.
“A kid like that has to have the ball in his hands,” East Robertson coach Atlee Pond said. “What better way to get the ball in his hands than have him play QB?”
Senior Drake Alsup was named the team’s starting QB in July. He replaced the injured Cameron Swift, who suffered a torn ACL in May. But Alsup is a receiver by trade and is more comfortable catching passes.
“We’ve just got to give our team the best chance to win, and I think Taylor playing QB does that,” Pond said. “Drake’s a team player. Anything I’ve ever asked him to do, he’s done it.”
Groves received offers from Kentucky, Mississippi State and Tennessee following a stellar freshman campaign. He caught 42 passes for 776 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018.
When Pond approached him about playing QB, Groves was thrilled. He played some QB in middle school and has a deep understanding of the East Robertson offense from his year of varsity experience at WR.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Groves said. “We looked kind of rough in the scrimmages this summer. But now, this is the best our offense has looked all year.”
Groves made his debut at QB against McEwen in the Robertson County Jamboree Friday night. He rushed for two touchdowns, including a 75-yard score on a broken play.
“I was supposed to hand it off, but (defenders) were crashing so I was like, ‘I think I can keep this,’” he said.
Any doubts about Groves’ passing ability were erased Friday. He completed several passes to Alsup early in the game and later threw a 50-yard bomb to Alsup that was on-target but fell incomplete.
“You look at me and think I probably can’t throw the ball because I’m a receiver,” Groves said. “But it’s a good change. I know the offense well, so I think I’ll be pretty good back there.”
One concern that kept the Indians from moving Groves to QB earlier was the idea that opposing defenses would load the box to stop Groves and tailback Jaden Crouch from running the ball. But Groves’ strong arm should keep East Robertson from becoming one-dimensional.
“Everybody’s worried about teams loading the box if we put him at QB,” Pond said. “But he throws the ball well enough that, if they load the box, we have receivers that can make plays.”
Putting a star athlete at QB is common in high school. Jalen Reeves-Maybin played QB at Clarksville Northeast before becoming a full-time linebacker at Tennessee. Jauan Jennings was a signal caller at Blackman, even though he went on to play WR for the Vols. Both players led their teams on deep playoff runs.
Pond is hoping Groves can do the same for East Robertson. And if Friday’s performance becomes the norm, opposing defenses will have their hands full.
“The secret is out, they know it’s coming,” Pond said. “Good luck stopping it.”