BOLINGBROOK — Tuesday’s test for Morris quarterbacks Matt Darlington and Griffin Sobol came on the turf. Facing Chicago Raby and then the hosting Raiders in the Bolingbrook 7-on-7 Passing League, both graded out with mixed results.
Just ask Morris offensive coordinator Bill Lauer about the competition to be the starting Redskins’ signal caller this fall.
“It’s wide open for us right now. Both guys are trying to gauge the speed of varsity football,” he said. “I know Matt didn’t get a ton of reps last year and he was hurt his sophomore year. Griff was also hurt his sophomore year. Right now we’re just trying to bring them up to speed. Trying to get them to make the reads and get rid of the ball when they are supposed to. This 7-on-7 season is great for that because of the team speed that we are going to see. The Al Rabys and Bolingbrooks are teams that are going to speed things up, especially the quarterback reads.”
Right from the onset of the 7-on-7 summer season, Morris head coach Alan Thorson has pointed out that both Darlington and Sobol present two good options to lead the team in 2013.
“It’s kind of the same thing I said at the start of summer. They both have really good attributes and they both have some things to work on,” Thorson said.
“Right now Griff’s been getting a majority of the snaps. He’s got great arm strength and I think he makes pretty good decisions. The biggest thing he needs to work on is his accuracy. It seems like the touch passes he wants to throw too hard. He need s to work on his accuracy, but he’s getting better every day and that’s what we want to see.
“Matt’s a smart kid who knows the offense. His biggest thing against him right now is his arm strength and his ability to hit those deeper balls. But he’s done a good job for us, too. I think we have two good options to lead this team right now.”
As a junior Darlington handled most all of the quarterback snaps with the second team, which may actually give him a leg up in the open competition at this point.
“Matt definitely has the intelligence. He also has the year under his belt where he got to learn the system,” Lauer said. “That’s what Griff is still trying to pick up. And we add to the playbook from sophomore to junior years. (Sobol) still has a lot to figure out as we move through the summer.”
Darlington only attempted one pass last fall for the Redskins, but just being there on game days and having that practice time seems to have helped his maturity level.
“Last year I was scarred, basically,” Darlington said. “I was worried about throwing the ball and throwing interceptions. But this year I’m more focused on getting my reads right and making the correct throws.”
Sobol was the starting quarterback as a sophomore last year and also made the playoff roster for the state run. Last year’s Redskins’ playoff roster has him listed at 6-2, 170-pounds.
“Griff definitely has a strong arm coming in,” Lauer said.
Plus he has a height advantage over the 5-8, 150-pound Darlington.
“Definitely, size is an asset for a quarterback because you can see over the linemen,” Sobol said. “Our linemen has some pretty decent height this year so it’s good for me in that I can see deeper when receivers are open. Especially when you are a runner. I guess I can be a runner sometimes.”
Even Darlington admits the main two areas that Sobol has the edge in.
“He’s tall and has a fantastic arm,” Darlington said. “I’m more of the compact package. The guy who is going to hit the quick outs and make the easy throws.”
No matter who is being graded up and who is being graded down at the moment, both quarterbacks seem to think that the open competition is good for the whole team.
“I think it’s definitely helping the team because we know the best person is going to play,” Darlington said. “I like the competition.”
“It’s going pretty well. Matt’s been throwing a good ball and I’ve been throwing a good ball,” Sobol said. “It’s a pretty tight competition right now. We’ll see who is the starting quarterback in the end and I say good luck to him.”
Morris has been fortunate over the years to have a healthy quarterback throughout the seasons. Still, according to both Lauer and Thorson, the history of injuries from both of the quarterbacks is a concern.
“The one thing we are worried about as far as both quarterbacks are concerned is injures,” Lauer said. “Neither of those guys has completed a season without being injured when they were full-time starters. I know that is going to be a big part of who is going to be playing for us. We want guy who is going to make it through the season.”
It is, at the very least, something that can’t be ignored.
“It’s always in the back of your head with both of them. I know Matt had a knee injury and Griff had a broken bone in his hand,” Thorson pointed out. “Obviously, with the quarterback position, durability is huge. We want to make sure that they can make it through the whole season. We as coaches also have to be smart with what we do with them, too. We can’t let them get beat up. Our philosophy is that we want to get these kids as big and fast and strong as possible. Both of those guys have done a good job in the weight room and we think that’s going to help them make it through a long season.”
Despite knee injuries, Darlington said he feels as fit as a fiddle at the present time.
“I feel like I’m as strong as I have ever been, as far as my legs go,” he said. “So, to me it’s not really an issue. I think I’m going to go through the season healthy.”
Last season’s quarterback Zach Cinnamon did get hurt at one point, though he didn’t miss any major stretches of time because of it. Still, the backup quarterback knows they always need to be ready in case they are called upon — no matter who that is.
“If either one of us gets injured, the other person has to be ready to go in at all times,” Darlington said.
Thorson said that both boys are going to continue to get action, right up to and through the season — even if that means playing on the other side of the ball.
“You have to keep repping both quarterbacks throughout the year. Last year we still repped our backups, and that’s because you never know what is going to happen,” Thorson said. “There’s injuries and illness and whatever. You always have to have somebody ready.
“The nice thing about those two is that they are both good athletes. Whoever doesn’t win the quarterback job will be fighting for another spot,” he added. “Matt’s done a good job on defense right now at corner. He’s really smart and talks really well. It’s nice to have a guy there who has played quarterback and can be vocal. Griff’s really versatile. He can play receiver and he can play D-end for us. It’s good height and size and athleticism. Griff’s becoming a big kid right now. Both of them can do a lot for us.”
Sobol indicated that staying ready is about getting repetitions and running them the right way.
“Right now it’s about working hard in the weight room and remembering the plays and running them right,” Sobol said.