This should answer some questions.
The Highlands Bluebirds football coaching staff does not like to make decisions on starters in the spring for good reason unlike some other teams.
That is especially the case for the starting quarterback role. Highlands returns three players that have played quarterback at some level for the Bluebirds. Senior-to-be Carl Schoellman and junior-to-be Grady Cramer led the Highlands Junior Varsity squad to a 6-3 mark last year and sophomore-to-be Collin Hollingsworth helped the Highlands Freshman team to a 7-3 mark. Hunter Ahlfeld also played quarterback on the freshman team last year, but he transferred to Ryle.
Highlands Offensive Coordinator Zach Deaton listed two big reasons for not making decisions on starters until the summer. The big one is some returning players are playing baseball or track and field. Cramer and Hollingsworth are playing baseball while Schoellman joined the football team for off-season drills after basketball season. Spring practice began Tuesday.
The second reason is spring practice lasts 10 days over a three-week period. But summer activities such as 7-on-7 tournaments last for a couple months. The Kentucky High School Athletic Association allows fall teams to begin practice on July 15.
"You want to make sure (certain players) that they still have an opportunity to show what they have," Deaton said. "Spring is very important. It's great to get reps, develop timing and get chemistry with guys. But it's a small piece of a much bigger puzzle."
In the past, parents have said their sons did not play other sports in the past so they can be there for spring ball and not lose their positions. But that's been proven wrong in the past many times. Last year's starting quarterback Brady Gosney still won the job after helping the Highlands baseball team to a second straight 9th Region championship last spring.
"The best players are going to play," Deaton said. "We're going to evaluate guys from spring all the way to the summer until we play. If a guy is the better guy, then he's going to play. Certainly, the more you're around, the more opportunities you have to show what you're capable of doing. I'm not going to hold it against a guy who's a really good pitcher or basketball player because they might have a lot of opportunities in that sport too to be able to do things."
Schoellman may enter the spring as the top candidate to win the starting quarterback job based on a recent trend, but that's not a given. A senior has started at quarterback for the Bluebirds every year since 2010 when Patrick Towles started as a junior.
Schoellman would like to leave his own mark on the program the way recent Highlands quarterbacks such as Towles (a 2012 Highlands graduate) and Beau Hoge (2015) did. Schoellman is listed at 5-foot-11-inches and 175 pounds on last year's roster.
"I just know this is my last shot with the group of guys we got," Schoellman said. "I just really want to play for them. I know they're counting on me and I'm counting on them. I really just want it to be a whole team effort. We'll have a lot of success if we're able to play for each other and make it a nice little brotherhood."
Schoellman's lone pass on the varsity level last year fell incomplete. But he did hold for kicker Nick Bowman last year on field goal and point-after touchdown attempts.
Schoellman said he's working on his footwork, drop-back steps and arm strength. Schoellman wants to be able to throw the ball deep and make defenses defend the entire field like past Bluebird teams have done. The Bluebirds return a lot of experience at wide receiver led by senior-to-be Nick Veneman who had 46 catches for 1,026 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Seniors-to-be Braden Posey and Griffin Huber also return.
Veneman and Schoellman among others have talked about the importance of developing solid team chemistry. Senior linebacker Trey Bowden said not every player bought in to what has made the Bluebirds successful in the past. That was a big reason for last year's 3-8 campaign - the first losing season for the Bluebirds since 1955.
"It's all about trusting each other no matter where we are whether we're out to eat or just hanging out," Schoellman said. "Whether we like each other or not, we all have the same common goal. That's to win the state championship. We're all willing to do whatever it takes to do so."
Cramer pitches and plays in both the infield and outfield for the Bluebirds baseball team. He said he wants to improve his footwork and decision-making in the off-season. Highlands running backs and quarterbacks coach Kevin Sipple said the 6-2 Cramer could find his way on the field even if it is not at quarterback.
"It keeps you in shape. You're always doing something else working your arms and getting stronger," Cramer said of baseball helping develop his football skills. "You're building up your accuracy and speed. I've been working on that as much as I can."
Hoge and 2013 Highlands graduate Donovan McCoy played wide receiver as juniors before starting at quarterback as seniors. Cramer and Schoellman did not list specific positions they'd play if they don't win the starting quarterback job. But they are willing to do what it takes to help the Bluebirds win.
Deaton said he noticed some good things at the start of spring ball. Highlands rushed for 1,717 yards total last year and passed for 2,692 for averages of about 156 and 245 yards per game last year.
"I think we have a fantastic group of guys on all grade levels," Deaton said. "It's very encouraging and exciting when on the first day of spring ball, you can run a whole set of offensive plays and defensive plays. That says a lot about our kids and our program in how efficient they are and they care about what they're doing."
The first game is just more than four months away. The Bluebirds open Aug. 18 at Cooper.
FORT THOMAS MATTERS: Schoellman, Cramer, Hollingsworth Give Bluebirds Options at QB Spots