September 7, 2012 12:00:14 PM
STARKVILLE -- There's no quarterback controversy at Starkville High School.
In the minds of Starkville coach Jamie Mitchell and his assistant coaches, a starting quarterback doesn't lose his job because of injury.
Gabe Myles, the senior co-captain and The Dispatch's 2011 Player of the Year, will start at 7:30 tonight when Starkville (1-2) plays host to West Point (1-1).
Myles suffered a severe ankle injury in a season-opening 29-8 loss to Noxubee County High School and didn't dress out for the next two non-region contests. The injury allowed sophomore quarterback Caleb Wilson to emerge in his first two varsity starts.
Wilson, the son of Mississippi State University defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, was informed of the decision earlier this week. A throwing arm injury that has limited his ability to practice made Mitchell's decision easier.
"We know Caleb doesn't want to sit, and I wouldn't want him to feel any other way as his football coach," Mitchell said. "His attitude isn't about a me thing at all, but it's about his love to compete for his teammates."
Wilson saw Dr. Rusty Linton, a specialist in Columbus for all MSU athletics. Specific about Wilson's arm injury weren't available at press time.
"I understood coach's decision and, at the same time, I want to play otherwise I wouldn't be out here," Wilson said. "Coach is trying to get the best players on the field, and I get that in order to do that we need one of the best players in the state in Gabe Myles back out there."
After practice Thursday at Starkville High, Myles declined to talk about his ankle injury and said the decision to return for the West Point game had nothing to do with the rivalry or fearing he was losing grip on the starting quarterback job.
"I'm healthy enough to play and, therefore, I'm able to play," said Myles, who had 1,916 passing yards passing and 1,000 rushing yards in 2011. "Caleb did a great job filling in for me so I could get healthy enough to come back. The fact I'm playing has nothing to do with leadership because again, when you're healthy enough to play, you play.
"It feels great to get back out here and help my team because this
what I do best. The West Point regular-season game doesn't define our season, but it does mean so much to so many people. I know I have to play well for us to have a chance."
West Point coach Chris Chambless is familiar with Myles. Last season, Myles helped Starkville beat West Point in the 2011 Class 5A playoffs, so he admitted he would have liked not to have seen Myles play tonight.
"Caleb (Wilson) really gave them a lift last week," Chambless said. "That may be a good thing for us because Gabe Myles beat us every way possible (in the playoff game). He beat us with his arm and with his legs. I had rather not watch that again."
Wilson was 8 of 12 for 180 yards and three touchdowns last week in a 28-0 victory against Tupelo High. Wilson, who led the Starkville High freshman team to a league title last year, looked composed and calm after battling nerves experiencing the pervious week at Madison Central.
Wilson has been around quality athletes and quarterbacks nearly his entire life while his father has built a reputation as a college football assistant coach. As a child, Caleb would watch a coach Bob Stoops' practices at the University of Oklahoma that included quarterbacks Sam Bradford, a future No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and current Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.
"I learned from guys like that the amount of work it takes to be great
at what you do, no matter what it is," Caleb Wilson said. "I'd never played quarterback until I got to Starkville, and I picked up so many things from what I saw in the past watching those (Oklahoma) guys."
When Chris Wilson moved from his alma mater to MSU to work for coach Dan Mullen, Caleb met a college sophomore named Tyler Russell and a bond was formed immediately.
Russell, a Parade All-American selection from Meridian High nearly four years ago, saw Caleb's talent and his desire to be a leader in the most important position on the field.
"The first thing I noticed about him is how smart of a player he is," Russell said. "He was a sponge and soaked up everything I taught him. He's great at making reads, picking the defense apart, and managing the game. It was a pleasure to work with him, and I can't wait to watch him develop as a quarterback."
Russell invited Caleb to the MSU practice fields to throw with the Bulldogs in informal sessions
"I thought it was a joke on his part and they were clowning me at first," Caleb Wilson said. "I was like, 'Are you sure you want me to come out and throw with you? You want to see me throw? For real?' "
Chris Wilson said that experience coupled and his work ethic have allowed Caleb to relax in game situations. He said he doesn't tutor his son much when they're at home.
"Jamie and I have already had that unique coach-parent conversation, and I needed Jamie to understand I think he and his staff are some of the best coaches in the state of Mississippi," Chris Wilson said. "I trust my son is getting proper football instruction from his coaches, so it's easy not interfere there. His mother and I can still tell him to clean his room, though."
Chris Wilson also has stayed away from any talk about at quarterback controversy at Starkville High. As a college assistant coach, Wilson can't talk about Myles, who gave a verbal commitment to MSU, until he signs a National Letter of Intent.
"They have a good quarterback at Starkville High, and my son knows this is his year to learn and wait his turn," Chris Wilson said. "He understands that and will continue to develop and get better."
Mitchell said he and his coaches will "play it by ear" when asked if there's a package or situation they will use Wilson in tonight. But Mitchell knows he won't be able to surprise the Green Wave.
"This is one of those games I could walk across the field and tell Chris what we're going to run and it wouldn't matter," Mitchell said. "It's going to come down to about two plays in this football game, and whoever makes the most of those opportunities will win."