There are 22 positions in football (not counting special teams, which definitely count).
Of those 22 positions (plus special teams), there’s one that almost always draws the most attention leading up to the beginning of a new season…especially when there will be someone new at that position.
The 2022 Arkansas Tech University football season will begin on Thursday, Sept. 1, with a 6 p.m. Great American Conference contest at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and no one outside the Wonder Boys’ locker room knows who will start at that most discussed position: quarterback.
I’m preparing to call at least four different names at quarterback during the broadcast on KCJC 102.3 FM, www.rivercountrykcjc.com and the KCJC Radio app, which begins with the pre-game show at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. All four quarterbacks bring something different to the table.
There’s junior Taye Gatewood. He’s the experienced one after appearing in 18 games over three seasons at fellow GAC member East Central University (which happens to be the heated and long-time rival of ATU’s opponent on Thursday, Southeastern Oklahoma State). Gatewood, a graduate of Fort Smith Southside High School, also has the advantage of having gone through spring practice with the Wonder Boys.
The same cannot be said about redshirt freshman Hunter Loyd, a transfer from the University of Central Arkansas who joined the ATU program over the summer. Among the things you can say about Loyd is he has very impressive credentials from his prep career at Rogers High School. He accumulated 7,643 passing yards and 75 passing touchdowns with the Mounties.
Then there are a couple of change of pace options.
Ryan Wilkerson is a redshirt freshman from Elysian Fields, Texas, who is likely to appear when the Wonder Boys go to their wildcat formation.
When ATU is close to the opponent’s goal line, all 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds of Jordan Edington, a sophomore from Little Rock, will reprise his role as short-yardage quarterback/battering ram from a year ago. Edington, a tight end by trade, led the Wonder Boys in rushing touchdowns (5) in 2021.
Playing the right quarterback at the right time is one of a myriad of decisions that will fall upon the able shoulders of Kyle Shipp, who will begin his third season as ATU head football coach on Thursday.
Shipp understands the challenge of facing a Savage Storm team that was 9-3 overall last season and returns eight All-GAC performers. He also understands what defeating such an opponent in week one would mean for his team.
“If we can figure out a way to get a win in week one, that would be a massive thing for us in terms of the amount of confidence it would give our young men,” said Shipp. “I think we have gotten to the point that we are good enough to compete week in and week out. Now we have to figure out how to get to that next level by winning more of these close games.”
Talk to you on the radio.
Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.