One was once a scrawny offensive lineman before converting to running back. The other a defense-loving edge rusher and tight end.
Now Gig Harbor’s Davis Alexander and Auburn Mountainview’s Gresch Jensen are two of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state, and both are leading the South Sound’s top state- title contenders in their respective classifications.
It’s one thing to stick an athlete behind center and call him a dual-threat. It’s another to find a quarterback who can both mesmerize defenses with mobility and make them pay with a precise pass.
Both are commanders of their teams’ no-huddle spread offenses and each accumulated more than 1,800 passing yards and at least 600 rushing yards last season.
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Some of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play won’t show up on many top dual-threat QB lists. But as high schools and colleges have embraced spread, up-tempo offenses, more seek signal-callers whose combination of arm and legs can turn a play into 11 vs. 11 instead of 10 vs. 11.
“All of the college coaches say they want to see you do everything,” said Jensen, who has committed to the University of Montana.
“I love the spread offense. You see the success it has had with Skyline and its state championships (six from 2005-2013) and I think that is where it really started taking off. Hopefully we can repeat the things they did.”
But just because both Alexander and Jensen can run and throw, doesn’t mean they go about it the same way.
DAVIS ALEXANDER, GIG HARBOR
Alexander said he wanted to be a dual-threat quarterback the way you might expect a 16-year-old senior who grew up in the video game generation to.
Playing Madden and using Michael Vick.
“To be honest, I learned a lot of things from Madden, throwing on the run using Mike Vick,” Alexander said. “You play someone in Madden and you use a quarterback who can throw and run, it’s so much more fun and it’s harder to guard. I was like, ‘If I can do this with Vick, I’m going to try to do this myself.’”
Alexander — whose father is a former professional rugby player — hasn’t yet committed to a college, and said he has offers from Montana Tech and the College of Idaho. He threw for more than 2,100 yards and 18 touchdowns last year and had 859 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns.
He’s just as likely to dash 30 yards after running circles around defenders in the backfield for the second-ranked Tides as he is to dart a touchdown pass down the seam.
But if he could throw a 50-yard touchdown or run 50 yards?
“Pass for sure,” Alexander said. “I think it’s cooler to hit a guy in stride for a touchdown than to do it running. And I think it’s harder to throw a 50-yard touchdown than it is to run.”
GRESCH JENSEN, AUBURN MOUNTAINVIEW
Running quarterbacks risk injuries. They simply take more hits.
Especially one like Jensen, who would rather plow through a linebacker than go around him.
Jared Gervais — the coach of the third-ranked Lions whose uncle is former Eatonville, Gig Harbor, Rogers and Skyline coach Steve Gervais — is fine with that for now.
“Most linebackers are smaller than him,” Gervais said. “He’s got to run the ball for us to be as good as we can be. If we try to hide him from that, then we aren’t going to be as good. But, obviously, if he gets hurt that is very bad. We won’t be as good then, either. It’s a tough situation to be in, but we just kind of let him do his thing.”
Jensen, who is also a starting defensive back, said he gets that bulldozer mentality from his days playing defense.
“Truthfully, my first love was on defense because I loved running around and hitting people,” said Jensen, who threw for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 649 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014.
“For the most part I just try to punish the defense and let my presence be known out on the field. But I think as I get to college, I think you have to start looking at more sliding as the guys get bigger. It’s definitely a learning curve I have to work on to stay healthy. Is it worth the extra 2 yards? Or is it more worth being out there for the next game?”
Neither Alexander nor Jensen have more than about 60 plays to memorize in their playbooks, but they said they combine to have just one that doesn’t involve them deciding anything at the line of scrimmage (Auburn Mountainview’s jet sweep).
Few of the elite quarterbacks in football’s history are known for their legs as much as their arms. So just what kind of future should Alexander and Jensen expect beyond the high-school level?
“I don’t think it should discourage us because we can both throw the ball really well,” Alexander said. “We don’t need to rely on our legs to get the job done. I’m really using my legs to extend the play while I look for someone down the field, because it’s hard to cover for 8-10 seconds.”
Run, pass and extend plays? Maybe they should be called triple-threat quarterbacks.