Gig Harbor High football coach Aaron Chantler pretty much has to replace an entire football team after the Tides lost 27 seniors to graduation.
So, why not start with the quarterback position?
Several players are vying for the starting job in an open competition, including senior Ryan Flood, junior Jaden Crooks, and sophomores Ben Hollenbeck, Griffin Bakken and Marco Carlson.
Flood backed up Portland State signee Davis Alexander last season, and is the only one in the group with varsity gameday experience.
“It’s great,” Flood said. “There’s a bunch guys out here competing and working hard, and it’s just an exciting time for the team. I think it’s good to know the offense, but there’s always stuff I can work on and improve. That’s what I’m focused on, just improving my weak points.”
Flood said he’s feeling confident about the competition.
“I’m always confident in my abilities and I’m confident in the abilities of the whole team,” Flood said. “I think it’s a great team this year and I’m really excited to see what we do.”
While Flood has the experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll win the job. Chantler said he likes what he sees from all the quarterbacks, and the competition should last a while.
“It’s kind of refreshing, and it’s fun to go through that again as a coach: to have a real, full-fledged competition,” Chantler said.
The last quarterback competition occurred during Alexander’s junior year, but it didn’t turn out to be much of a competition, as he quickly separated himself. The Tides haven’t had a true QB competition since Chantler’s first year, when Garrett Gallinger and Conor Scanlan battled for the job.
“Five kids who are really hungry to establish themselves,” Chantler said. “They work together to make each other better.”
One of the biggest challenges for Chantler and his staff is getting quality reps for all five athletes competing for the job.
“It’s hard,” Chantler said. “We honestly have five guys competing for that position. It’s not like we’re saying it’s five and it’s really two. There’s five.”
The tempo of the Tides’ offense helps with that.
“We go so fast that we’re able to get a lot of reps in in a small amount of time,” Chantler said. “It feels like the QB was in there for 30 seconds, but in 30 seconds, he got five reps.”
Alexander could do it all for Gig Harbor: He was quick, could scramble and run, but he also had a strong arm and could throw from the pocket. Chantler said he doesn’t have a preference for a specific type of quarterback, whether it be a prototypical pocket passer or a more speedy-type QB.
“We’re looking for three things out of our QBs: Who can make the decisions the fastest, who can instill confidence in his teammates, and who can get the ball out of his hands the fastest,” Chantler said. “We feel we can make any type of QB fit as long as they do those three things.”
The team literally closed a book last week in a team meeting, a metaphor for moving on from last year’s group, which enjoyed tremendous success.
“I think that’s something that kind of hung over our program in the offseason,” Chantler said. “We lost 27 seniors. You have a lot of guys trying to figure out how to lead, fill those shoes, just the sheer numbers. We literally closed a book; we talked about each person’s DNA is unique to them. They cannot be somebody else. It’s just that constant conversation. Be the best version of you. We believe in the process.”
Chantler is hoping to narrow the QB competition down before the team gets into fall camp.
“We don’t have an immediate time frame,” he said. “But if some guy wins it, he wins it.”