With the end of the year that nobody will soon forget coming to an end, it is hard to believe that even if Division II football had been played, in less than 2 weeks it be for the National Championsip, and this was the year that many people felt the Lions would add National Title # 3 to the Lion legacy, but the world had other plans. Either way, after the spring game, it is time to look at guys who will be pulling the signal callers for team and there is a lot to be excited about with all of these guys.
I did a preview of this position in 2019, which you can read here-https://thelionwire.com/2019/04/17/lion-football-2019-quarterback-preview/. None of the guys listed in that preview are in the program anymore, but I wanted to let everyone know where they are and what they are up to.
- Kane Wilson-The 2018 starter and All-Conference performer was the guy who we believed was going to start in 2019 ended up finding out that his football career was over in the Spring when a degenerative back condition that he had struggled with for years was coming harder and harder. One thing to remember is that Kane was 26 when he got to campus and was almost 28 in 2019, so much can happen to the body in that short amount of time. However, Kane’s journey had a good ending as he graduated this year and is now pursuing his master’s degree and will look to be a teacher and coach. Great job to Kane and he will always be a part of the Lion QB fraternity. If you know his story, he has certainly come full circle.
- Preston Wheeler-Wheeler stayed on as QB2 during 2019 and also served as holder on PAT’s and field goals like he had the previous year. Preston was one of those guys that I felt would be a team guy and a program guy. He played in 35 games and as a quarterback completed 83 passes for 886 yards and seven touchdown passes and was a member of the 2016 LSC Championship team and the 2017 National Championship team, and was a member of four NCAA Playoff teams. He graduated with a Business Degree in May of 2019 and in a poetic ending, led the Lions on their final scoring drive of the 2019 season with a touchdown pass. Another guy we are glad to call one of our own and a member of the LionU quarterback fraternity.
- Armando Herrera-The California JUCO star that we convinced to come to Texas decided to transfer to Fort Lewis College in Durango, California. His skills seem to be more conducive to the offense that Fort Lewis runs and they are an RMAC school so we might see them down the road some day. The best of luck to him and he has a promising future.
- Gunnar Palacios-We were able poach the Canyon native from his own backyard but after the coaching staff, the former Canyon standout opted to head back to the Texas Panhandle and transfer to West Texas A&M. He was used on offense as a wide receiver when injuries were getting to the team in 2019, but returned back to his natural spot. Either way, it looks like we will be seeing him down the road as I am sure if he stays, he will start at some point for the Buffs. Good luck to him as well, just not when plays us.
- Mason Ray-The Brazos Valley native graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and took two rings home with him, a National Championship ring being a Redshirt Freshman on the 2017 team, and the TAMUC College of Business graduation ring. Ray finished his coursework with 2 years of eligibility left, and only took a few snaps in his 3 year career, so there is no word on whether he might finish his time somewhere else or just enter the workforce, but whatever he decides to do, we wish him Godspeed and the best of luck in his future.
- Cameron Howe-The Houston Waltrip product has found a home 3 hours down the road in Marshall at East Texas Baptist where he is expected to compete for the starting job. As with our other transfers, the best of luck to him as well.
Now, let’s look at our current crop according to how our see our depth chart as of now-
- Miklo Smalls, RS-JR, Plano-Without a doubt, the uncontested starter and its not really even close along with being the best returning Quarterback in the Lone Star Conference and maybe in the entire country. Halfway through the season, and especially after his performance in the playoffs, Smalls has shown that he could be the next Lion QB Legend. A 3,000 passing yard performance responsible for 3,500 yards of total offense has everybody looking to him to be in the pantheon of great Lion quarterbacks that will lead the Lions into a pursuit of a third national championship in school history. Smalls could also very well be our fourth Harlon Hill Trophy nominee if everything lines up correctly. He has two years to get two awards he certainly has the ability and the talent to win.
- Eric Rodriguez, Freshman, Missouri City
An athletic, confident, and well-schooled QB from Fort Bend Hightower, he showed himself to be a leader in the huddle for Billy Riebock’s offense. At 5’11 and 190 LBS, he is built like a multiple offense signal caller. He was not perfect in the fall game, but he was very able and held command, and that is how a QB has to often be evaluated is how well they command a huddle. To make sure everyone is on the same page for a play. Athleticism aside, he has a strong arm and a hard hitting accuracy. He runs very well and will learn polish the longer he is in the system. His high school career was very accomplished. He was District 20-6A MVP, Area Offensive Player of the Year, MaxPreps/USA Player of the Year for Southwest Region, Houston All-VYPE Team, Ford Tough Texas Player of the Year Finalist, Houston (Fox 26) Player of the Week, Lone Star Country Player of the Year Finalist, Texas High School Football Player of the Week, Team Captain, Travis High MVP and was offered scholarships by 11 other schools in all three NCAA divisions. So far, he has proven himself not only to be the next man up if Miklo Smalls goes down, but perhaps an heir apparent.
3. Shun’Darion Ward, Freshman, DeSoto, TX
Anyone who plays quarterback at Desoto is going to be a guy to look at. Ward is no exception. Despite the glowing reviews of Eric Rodriguez, Ward is someone who could overtake him in the QB2 job and is a lot like Miklo Smalls in a lot of ways. As a Senior, he led the Eagles to a district championship and a finish in the area finals where they bowed out to Southlake Carroll. Along the way, he completed 207 passes out of 339 attempts for 26 passing touchdowns to 5 interceptions. In addition he rushed for 584 yards and 9 touchdowns. Ward knows how to make plays with his feet and we saw that when he scrambled out of the pocket to complete some big throws in his time under center. At 6’1 and 190 lbs, he fits the perfect mold for a guy who can come in and compete for the starting job. While his counterpart has more high school accolades, it only matters what is done when they are in the blue and gold that matters now. His performance in the spring game shows his natural talents. While Rodriguez appears to have the stronger arm, Ward seems to be a more complete athletic package. Depending on what the future holds, it will be an exciting QB battle in 2 years when Miklo Smalls graduates.
4. Tyson Oliver, Freshman, Royse City, TX
A 3 year letterman and 2 year starter from just down I-30, Oliver is one of those small town kids that is a well rounded athlete that could morph into something more. Unlike his two previous guys on the depth chart, he is a true freshman in every sense of the word, as he just graduated in last May. He led the Bulldogs to Area round of the playoffs his Senior year, having his best statistical year. In 2 years as a starter, he threw for 2,428 yards and 18 touchdown passes to go along with 586 yards rushing and 8 rushing touchdowns. The fact that he chose to play at a school so close to home is a testament to the recruiting rule of winning in your own back yard. He is raw, but look for him to probably redshirt and stay behind a season or two after Ward and Rodriguez, but rest assured, he will get some playing time. His best bet right now is to lead the scout team and play on Thursday nights with the redshirt freshmen to give himself a year to develop.