Posted: 12:59 pm Saturday, December 13th, 2008
By Jason Lieser
The Blue Devils have had an interesting season at the quarterback position. The sequel begins in May.
This year, Pahokee coach Blaze Thompson ultimately settled on De’Joshua Johnson, normally a wide receiver. Johnson took over for Nu’Keese Richardson two weeks ago and will start at quarterback in Saturday’s state championship game against Trinity Catholic. For more on this, click here to read the story from Friday’s paper.
During spring practices, Thompson struggled to find a replacement for Anthony Sheppard, a pure pocket passer who graduated after winning back-to-back titles. Richardson, who will play receiver for Florida next year, was the most viable option.
Nobody was comfortable with that decision. Thompson figured it was temporary, hoping sophomore Emanual Perez would develop quickly enough to take the reins by mid-season, but it didn’t happen. Perez was solid against the Blue Devils’ soft district schedule, but is not ready to run the team full-time.
Richardson wasn’t thrilled about it, but he kept his mouth shut and worked hard. He turned out to be one of the best quarterbacks in the area. Obviously he was a major threat on the ground, and he finished the regular season with 1,014 passing yards and 13 touchdown passes.
But when the offense began to look stale toward the end of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, Thompson needed to find a way to get Richardson back at receiver. He went with Johnson, and it seems to be paying off.
In his two starts, Johnson completed 20 of 35 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns, including a 66-yarder to Richardson. The Blue Devils scored 75 points in Johnson’s first two games, after just 64 in their previous three.
His early success makes him the lead candidate for the job in 2009, when Thompson will face the same dilemma: Does he sacrifice his best receiver to cover the lack of a natural quarterback?
“Josh has proven himself at quarterback, but we need him at wide receiver, so it’s not going to be optimal,” Thompson said.
An interesting fact about Johnson: he does not grip the laces when he throws the ball. His explanation: “Ever since I was young, I just grabbed the ball and threw it. And it went far. It looked pretty so I stayed with it.”
Thompson said the coaching staff won’t tinker much with his mechanics because, long-term, Johnson is a wide receiver. He is 5-11, 170 pounds and already has offers from Florida, Florida State, Miami, Georgia and Michigan at receiver. He caught 26 passes for 489 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season.
As for Perez, the coaches have not completely written him off. He will get a fair shot to win the job in the pre-season, which would be ideal for the Blue Devils, but he has to work on his mastery of the playbook and making quick decisions.
“He’s just not ready yet,” Thompson said. “But he’s going to get a little stronger, a little taller.”
Senior-to-be Raheam Buxton, who was Sheppard’s back-up last year, is a possibility, too, or perhaps some unknown option will surface like Johnson did.