Daniel Carr started the 2012 season as the backup quarterback for an 0-4 Midland Valley team.

By the end of the year, he was the starter for a 4-7 Mustang squad that went into its regular-season finale against Strom Thurmond with a shot at the Region 5-AAA title and advanced to the Class AAA playoffs.

His 795 passing yards and five touchdowns on 66-of-113 passing to go with 420 rushing yards and six more scores on 107 carries were a big part of that resurgence.

It’s that dual-threat ability and the fact that he’s still only a sophomore that makes Carr the Aiken Standard’s No. 4 Player to Watch for the 2013 high school football season.

“Well the biggest thing was extending plays,” Midland Valley head coach Rick Knight said about Carr’s capabilities on Wednesday. “Whether it was through his scrambling, and when plays broke down, he was able to make a play for us.”

Carr started off the season on the second string at the varsity level, in part because AAU basketball nationals kept his attention until practice for football had already begun. Trenton Baughman started the season as quarterback, and the Mustangs were struggling. Midland valley lost its first two games – to North Augusta and Allendale-Fairfax – by a combined score of 87-8.

In the next game against Aiken High, it trailed 41-6 and was in desperate need of a shot in the arm. Carr took the reins and led the Mustangs to two scoring drives against the Hornets.

The following week against Silver Bluff, Carr replaced Baughman again, and he almost sparked an upset. He threw for 143 yards and a touchdown, and added a late rushing score that was negated by a penalty that would’ve brought the Mustangs within three points in a game they lost 17-7.

Up next was Class A competitor Baptist Hill, and bouyed by Daniel and cousin Dre Carr, the Mustangs collected their first of four wins over a five-game stretch to clinch the region’s No. 3 seed and a berth in the playoffs.

Even though Carr’s basketball commitments kept him from playing earlier – and perhaps kept the Mustangs from an early-season win or two – Knight said it’s his multi-sport abilities that make him a special athlete at quarterback.

“He’s got a high sports IQ, playing varsity basketball as an eighth-grader,” said Knight, also pointing out that his rising sophomore signal-caller might have learned from his brother, Marquett Carr, who was also a Midland Valley multi-sport star and quarterback on the varsity team.

This year, Daniel’s focusing on football from the start, and it’s not just about natural ability and genetics. He’s spent a considerable amount of time studying with the Mustang coaching staff.

“He’s an extremely coachable young man, which is a huge plus,” Knight said. “He wants to play at the highest level, which helps us at practice, to say the least.”

Not only does he want to play well, but Carr said he wants to lift his teammates to play better. He said being the Mustangs’ starter from the opening of practice will help.

“I think we’ll be able to win more games, having the leadership qualities I have,” Carr said. “It helps be as a quarterback to be able to have control from the beginning of the season.”

It won’t hurt to also have receiver Kameron Brown and Dre Carr, both rising juniors, returning on his side of the ball. Brown finished the year with 464 receiving yards and a touchdown on 28 catches. At close to 6-foot-4, he’s the top returning wideout in the area.

“Well, it makes us a little more balanced,” Knight said. “Daniel thinks he can can make a mistake almost, and Kameron will bail him out.”

Dre Carr, whom Knight called a “tough young man,” battled injuries late last season but still ran for 886 yards and six scores on 163 carries. “They’re still young, but like I said, we think our offense is going to be pretty good,” he said.

Daniel agreed with that assessment, saying “I love working with them.” He added that, with the kind of talent the Mustangs are returning, they could be a force in a region that also includes Class AAA Lower State runner-up Strom Thurmond and region runner-up Swansea.

“We have a lot of potential,” he said. “I think we can go further than we did last year, get out of the first round of the playoffs and definitely win region.”

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.

Series glance

This story is the seventh 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.

• July 12 – No. 10 Reggie Preston, RS-M

• July 13 – No. 9 Jaylen Lawrence, SB

• July 14 – No. 8 RJ Tyler, W-S

• July 15 – No. 7 Taylor Hearn, W-E

• July 16 – No. 6 Rasool Clemmons, SA

• July 17 – No. 5 Nakeem Spann, AIK

• Today – No. 4 Daniel Carr, MV

• Friday – No. 3

• Saturday – No. 2

• Sunday – 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.