May 13, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Spring is a time for growth, especially for quarterbacks.
Jaquez Johnson showed signs of being a promising quarterback last season as a sophomore at Starkville High School.
After securing the starting job early in the schedule, Johnson had his ups and downs. In his first year leading the Yellow Jackets, he threw 15 interceptions and nine touchdowns, but he has committed to improving in the offseason.
"I can read the defenses better and my ball has a little more zip on it," Johnson said. "I''m getting more accurate than I was last year."
Johnson has been known to make plays with his feet as the team''s second-leading rusher (386 yards, 127 carries), but Starkville High coach Bill Lee wants Johnson to use his teammates and not to rely solely on his skills.
"We''re trying to impress upon him not to be so one dimensional and the game is coming to him a little bit more," Lee said. "He''s going to second receivers and making good reads at the first point of attack. We''ve got some guys who can go get the football a little bit now, too."
Lee hopes Johnson will use his stronger arm to find Chuck Tillery (33 catches, 400 yards), Perez Young (eight catches, 125 yards), and Justin Rogers (13 catches, 114 yards) this season.
Johnson is developing a chemistry with his receivers in the spring, and continues to build a relationship with them.
"We all know each other after playing together last year," Johnson said. "We''re all coming back and it feels comfortable."
Although the Yellow Jackets graduated talent from a team that went 3-8 last season, Lee is filling those spots with players who he hopes will be around for a while.
"The core of the team will be back for two years," Lee said. "The group for this year and next year will be expecting big things if they stay out.
"I think we can be real explosive. We''ve basically got to be more consistent with what we''re doing."
Lee wants to get his playmakers in open spaces offensively and for his defensive players to make plays to cut down on third-down conversions.
Starkville will get a chance to work on that consistency Friday at a jamboree at New Hope High. The Yellow Jackets will play a regulation half against Amory at 4:30 p.m. and Pontotoc at 5:30 p.m.
Lee said the spring presents many distractions for the players, but he likes the way the squad has focused the past week and a half.
There will be some players who will have to play on both sides of the football, which is unusual for a Class 5A school like Starkville High.
"We''re putting people in the right place to be successful and can fit in," Lee said.