When a player takes over a significant position after playing elsewhere previously, it’s tough to know what to expect.
When that position is quarterback for a perennial playoff team, the interest mounts. That’s why Silver Bluff quarterback Jaylen Lawrence is the No. 9 Player to Watch for the 2013 high school football season.
Lawrence was a defensive back and wide receiver for the Bulldogs last year. His four interceptions kept him among the area’s leaders and earned him a spot on the All-Aiken Standard team.
Now, longtime Silver Bluff head coach Al Lown is giving him the first crack at being the Bulldogs’ signal-caller.
“We’re hoping Jaylen can do the job for us,” Lown said, noting that Jalen Jackson took over the position for only his senior year in 2012. “If Jaylen can play as good as him, we’ll be happy.”
At this point, though, Lown isn’t 100 percent sure what Lawrence will do with the quarterback position. The rising senior was under center in middle school, junior varsity and was even the back-up on varsity. But he’s seen very little, if any, live action over the past couple seasons.
“We don’t know,” Lown said. “It really has been a couple years since he’s played quarterback in a game or anything.”
Lawrence did complete a pass for 10 yards last season.
Still, with that kind of uncertainty, most coaches would be concerned, but Lown isn’t. Because of the Bulldogs’ Wing-T system and the variety of offensive options it provides, Lawrence won’t be required to carry a heavy load.
The scheme also doesn’t rely on a heavy dose of passing, further relieving the pressure on Lawrence.
“We really don’t need him to come in and win the games for us; we just need him to run our offense,” Lown said.
The Bulldogs’ depth, or lack of it, will also affect Lawrence. Because of the team’s relatively small roster, top players are frequently needed to play on both offense and defense. That will be the case for Lawrence this season, as he’ll continue to man the Bulldogs’ secondary.
Lawrence will be the latest Silver Bluff player filling a significant role on offense while still logging time on defense following eventual college players Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson) and AJ Washington (Stetson). Tankersley was the Bulldogs’ quarterback and safety for his junior and senior seasons.
“Obviously you don’t want that to happen,” Lown said of having his quarterback play both ways before pointing out his team’s lack of depth with regard to skill position players for the 2013 season. “So I’m sure he’s going to play some defensive back.”
His abilities in the defensive backfield and as a wide receiver also give the Bulldogs a contingency plan for such a talented player if Lawrence doesn’t work out as the signal caller.
Lown said physical ability won’t be a deterrent for Lawrence. He’s confident the senior has the skill set to succeed under center; the key will be whether he prepares for the position the right way.
Further, Lown’s hopeful that Lawrence’s past as a top defensive back will give him an edge on the other side of the ball.
“I hope it brings him some toughness,” Lown said. “If he does want to work hard to be a good quarterback, he can be.”
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
This story is the second in a series highlighting the top 10 Players to Watch in the Aiken area for the rapidly approaching high school football season. The list will be revealed in descending order on a daily basis, with the No. 1 player to watch to be revealed on July 21.
• Friday – No. 10 Reggie Preston, RS-M
• Today – No. 9 Jaylen Lawrence, SB
• Sunday – No. 8
• Monday – No. 7
• Tuesday – No. 6
• Wednesday – No. 5
• Thursday – No. 4
• July 19 – No. 3
• July 20 – No. 2
• July 21 – No. 1
The order was determined by Aiken Standard sports editor Noah Feit, staff writers Jeremy Timmerman and Eric Russell, North Augusta Star news editor Scott Rodgers, Aiken Standard intern Kyle Dawson, as well as ASTV broadcasters Ed Girardeau and Ken Brace.