By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
As the dog days of spring football near, McKinney High head coach Jeff Smith has a pretty significant position battle to keep his eye on.
With MHS senior Robert Somborn graduating next month and heading off the Cornell, Smith is looking for the next man to take the helm as the Lions starting quarterback next fall. While a competition is taking place every day at practice, and nothing official has been determined as to whom the starter is, last year’s junior varsity starter Brian Sutter Jr. is the prime candidate for the job.
The 5-foot-11-inch, 180-pound sophomore is entering his third season at McKinney High next August. With the help of a number of YouTube highlight videos, one of which has surpassed the 675,000-view mark, Sutter has built quite a reputation around the football scouting community as a player to watch.
Sutter has played the position of quarterback since the fourth grade. While at Evans Middle School, he put up numbers that drew the attention of coaches and scouts from around the area. After his first two years at MHS, including a full season as the JV starting quarterback, Sutter looks to fill the footsteps of Somborn. In order to get there, he knows he must develop the kind of leadership that Somborn had, both on and off the field.
“He was a natural leader,” said Sutter. “Everyone looked up to him and he had that presence about him. Everyone knew that Robert Somborn was the leader of the school, and I want to take that on, too.”
While he may just be a month away from his junior year, Sutter embraces the expectations and the pressure that comes with it. The Lions went from 0-10 in 2011 to 5-5 in 2012, so with the direction of the team pointing straight up, people are expecting more positive things and more wins from the team.
As the JV quarterback, Sutter’s games would be earlier in the week, which allowed him to watch the varsity games every Friday night. He said observing Somborn work every week was beneficial to his development, and he admired Somborn’s ability to stand in the pocket and make the difficult throws.
“His poise in the pocket, with all the craziness versus Allen and other schools, was unbelievable,” said Sutter. “He was very calm and always had a great pocket presence.”
Somborn and Sutter talked on a daily basis before, during, and after practice. For a sophomore with dreams of being the starting quarterback someday, Sutter was happy to have a mentor in Somborn.
“He did really good in taking the mentor role with me, like helping me learn the offense and stuff like that,” said Sutter.
When asked about his protégé, Somborn admired his physical gifts of the position but said he has to continue to hone in the mental side of the game.
“I think Brian has a good arm and he throws the deep ball pretty well,” said Somborn. “He can make all of the throws he needs to make, but the main thing he’ll really have to get better at this spring is the mental side of the quarterback position and read the progressions you go through. He’s still fairly young and hasn’t had much experience with the varsity style of play, but it won’t take him long to adjust and get better.”
Somborn said that once Sutter understands that the defense will “tell him where the ball is going, he’ll be just fine.” Even Somborn admitted that he was still working on that during his senior year at McKinney, so patience and hard work would be needed for Sutter to fully grasp the position.
Sutter has been pleased with the first weeks of spring practice. While he is looking to improve his speed during the practices, his main goal is to keep improving as a complete quarterback and become the leader of the football team.
“I just really need to take on that leadership role and keep learning the offense, inside and out so I know exactly where to go with the ball,” said Sutter. “If I keep that up than I will be good.”
“He has done a good job this spring,” said Smith. “Brian throws a good ball and knows our offense, and he just needs a lot of reps this spring at the varsity level. He is doing a good job right now.”
Even though Sutter is the more experienced player, Smith has freshman Tyree Johnson taking snaps under center as well during practices. With two young and inexperienced quarterbacks battling it out for the job, Smith is relieved to have some varsity experience returning to his skill positions.
Juniors Tommy Candela, T.V. Williams, and Dalon Willis are just three of the returning position players for the Lions who had an impact last season. For Smith, having solid production and leadership back on the offensive side of the ball will help take some of the pressure off his young QB’s.
“It will help our young quarterbacks to have some experience at receiver and running back,” said Smith. “It well help take some of the pressure off of them, where they don’t have to win it on every throw and read. They are managing games.”
Before Somborn takes off for Cornell, the soon-to-be MHS graduate had a final piece of advice for Sutter.
“Just relax and don’t think the game over,” said Somborn. “It really does get easier when you dumb things down and follow your read keys. Takes things slow and take what the defense is giving you. There is no reason to force a low percentage ball when you have a high percentage, easy throw as another option.
“You’ll get your option to take some shots downfield, but just wait for that. And also, of course, enjoy it because it goes away quick. Don’t get caught up in long practices or the grind. Stay tough and have a clear positive attitude through the whole process. It is what we live for. There’s nothing better than high school football in Texas.”
There is no denying that there will be pressure on either player who wins the job, particularly Sutter. There will be a good number of people with their eyes on him as he enters his first year at the varsity level, wondering if the production at the next level will match the hype of the YouTube highlight videos.
With growing expectations and the grind of a competition during spring practice, there is no doubt that the kid is ready to tackle the pressure head on and defeat it.
“I think there is some pressure, but pressure builds champions,” said Sutter. “I think that the more pressure there is, you just have to rise up to it and take it on your back. Just see how you do.”
Stay tuned to TSB for more news and updates from MISD spring practices this May.