SCOOBA — The East Mississippi Community College football team appears to have the answer at quarterback this season for any defense.
Coach Buddy Stephens” biggest dilemma could be how he plans to utilize the skills of Bo Wallace, Termarcus Conner, and Jaquez Johnson. The EMCC coach will get his first chance to experiment with quarterbacks at 7 p.m. Thursday when No. 16 EMCC plays host to defending state champion and No. 2 Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. at new Sullivan-Windham Field.
At 6:30 p.m., EMCC will dedicate its new $4.7 million, 5,000-seat facility.
“Everybody has their own niche and has their own thing that they are very good at,” Stephens said.
Wallace comes to EMCC after spending last season at Arkansas State. Wallace, a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder, redshirted at ASU as a freshman and opted to transfer in February after a change of coaches.
Wallace said the competition at quarterback has helped motivate each player and, in turn, has helped push the team to be better. He also feels each quarterback complements the other.
“Termarcus has really good feet and runs the ball really well,” Wallace said. “Jaquez is just a big guy who can roll over somebody. I am just a drop-back guy who can throw it.”
Wallace said his goal is to work on his mechanics and to be re-recruited at EMCC. Like most quarterbacks, he said he loves to throw the football, which is why he feels EMCC is a great fit.
“We”re going to throw the ball 40 times a game, and that”s what I love to do,” Wallace said. “I think there is still work to be done as far as me becoming a better leader. I am not as much of a vocal guy. I just try to lead by example and to be the first one done running. I am not the fastest guy, but I am going to be the first one done when we run sprints, and in the weight room just push guys as hard as I can.”
Wallace is excited by the variety of weapons at his disposal. He feels the Lions have a mix of down-field and slot receivers, as well as options out of the backfield, especially with former Starkville High standout Billy Shed.
Wallace also said the offensive line has come a long way in the offseason, which adds to the optimism entering this season.
“He has a very good arm and he is very mature,” Stephens said. “He is a very good leader.”
Conner, a 5-11, 175-pound sophomore, led Noxubee County High School to the Class 4A state title in 2008. He redshirted in 2009 and played in eight games last season, going 13 of 25 for 232 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
“He knows our system and is very elusive and is a great athlete,” Stephens said. “He is a gamer. He has played in some big-time games, and he has a little bit of everything you look for in a quarterback. He is going to be able to help us in a lot of different areas.”
Conner said he could be on the field with Wallace at the same time, or they each could play quarterback in the same game. Either way, he said he is willing to play any role he can to help the team.
“The expectations are higher than they were last year,” Conner said. “The competition is better than last year and the team chemistry is the No. 1 thing that makes everything better than last year.”
Conner feels his ability to make things happen with his legs gives him a different style than Wallace. He said the Lions are back to the spread system they used in his freshman season, which has helped him and Wallace a lot more comfortable.
“I just can”t wait to see how it turns out in the first game,” Conner said. “We plan to give opponents a lot of different looks. I think it will be a good playbook from here on out.”
Johnson, a 6-2, 240-pounder, started last season at Starkville High. Known for his ability to run and to pass, Johnson said he is content to wait his turn and to learn from both players.
“Bo brings the deep threat down field, and knows how to get out of the pocket and he always can make a play ,” Johnson said. “Termarcus brings the speed and athleticism you don”t see a lot from quarterbacks. He can make a guy miss and he can make a big play out of nothing.”
While trying break into the rotation might be difficult, Johnson knows EMCC has had a fine tradition of quarterbacks — Randall Mackey and former Starkville High product Brad Henderson — under Stephens. He said he is willing to take his time and add his name to that list.
“I am going to use this year as a year for me to mature and to get better,” Johnson said. “I just want to work hard, so when my chance comes I will be ready.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.