By Jordan Burton (@thejordanburton)
Who are some of the top quarterbacks to watch heading into this season? Find our top eight below. We have watch lists for running backs, receivers, defensive players and linemen. A player who plays multiple positions may be on another list.
This list also appears in the O-Zone Fall Preview Magazine featuring more names. The magazine is available at all area Casey’s General Stores. CLICK HERE FOR A FULL LIST OF ADVERTISER LOCATIONS WHERE THE MAGAZINE IS AVAILABLE.
Jaris Acklin, MV-BT/Liberty, Junior
2018 screams breakout season for Jaris Acklin. In his final seven games a sophomore, he passed for 1,339 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Eagles were 5-2 in that span. He can spin it with the best of them and he’s maturing physically and mentally as a quarterback. His arm talent is arguably the best in the Ozarks and ahead of where his brother, Jaelon, was at the same point. With an experienced offensive line in front of him and several skill guys back, he has everything he needs for a monster, Acklin-like year.
Trevor Boice, Parkview, Junior
He’s entering his third season as a starting quarterback; few guys have started more games than Boice. A true dual-threat, he passed for 1,940 yards and rushed for 510 yards with 28 total touchdowns. He’s entering his third head coach in the last three years, but his immense talent will allow him to be productive in any system.
Gavin Clouse, Seneca, Senior
Coach Ryan McFarland has led a resurgence of Seneca Football, running a modified version of the splitback veer and Clouse has been a key cog. As a junior, he totaled more than 1,700 yards of total offense with 25 touchdowns. He makes great reads and he’s elusive in the open field. Crowd the box and he’ll burn you deep. He’s our local version of Eric Crouch.
Caleb Johnson, Ava, Senior
Johnson is one of the most underrated players in the Ozarks. A true two-way guy, he totaled more than 1,200 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns as a junior. Defensively, he tallied 13 sacks. At the Class 2 level, you won’t find many guys better at making big-time plays. He also orchestrated a near upset of Lamar in last year’s playoffs, passing for 98 yards and rushing for 64 more. He also had 11 tackles in that game.
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Joe Kennedy, Carl Junction, Senior
Kennedy is arguably the most explosive quarterback in the Ozarks. He’s the only returner with at least 2,000 yards passing (2,052) and 1,000 (1,122) yards rushing, as well, from last season. He is the prototypical guy to run today’s spread offenses. Without Rayquion Weston, he could put up video game numbers in 2018.
Tyson Riley, Catholic, Senior
It is difficult to put Riley on just one list because he also happens to be one of the best defensive players in the Ozarks. Simply put, the kid is a football player and not a quarterback. He’s a run-first guy, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards last season and once he finds a crease, he’s gone. Defensively, he recorded 50 tackles and four interceptions last season. He’s a mistake eraser.
Zeke Sappington, Carthage, Senior
Sappington came into his own last year and that’s a major reason why Carthage was able to make a final four run. He makes plays with his legs and his arm and might be the best deep-ball thrower in the Ozarks. He has excellent touch and gets the ball out quickly. With his maturation and elusiveness, he could be a 2,500-1,000 guy this fall.
Blake Tash, Joplin, Junior
He’s every football coach’s dream; he’s extremely accurate, doesn’t turn the ball over and he wins games. Tash passed for 2,072 yards and 15 touchdowns last season with just three interceptions. He also completed nearly 75 percent of his passes. Few guys have a better command of their offense than Tash, which is a major reason why he’s one of the best pocket passers in the area.