FPC head coach Daniel Fish talks to the players after an early-morning practice on Friday, Aug. 4. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Palm Coast Observer
Flagler Palm Coast was down to one quarterback in its spring football game. Caden Gonzalez had played flag football growing up, but he had never played in a tackle football game. Gonzalez wound up throwing two touchdown passes as the Bulldogs defeated Riverside 20-19 in coach Daniel Fish’s FPC debut.
Ten weeks later, FPC’s quarterback room is no longer a lonely place. The Bulldogs now have seven quarterbacks in the program. That does not even include freshman Mike London Jr., who practiced at QB during the spring but has been switched to defensive back.
Gonzalez, a senior, entered fall practice as the No. 1 QB, but he is in a battle with three others for the starting spot: sophomores Cole Walker and La’Darius Simmons and junior Jacob Miller.
Walker backed up Bulldogs starter D.J. Murray last year but played in only one game. He had transferred to Nease and played in the Panthers’ spring game at Matanzas but has transferred back to FPC.
Miller is coming off labrum surgery and missed spring practice, offensive coordinator Jake Medlock said. Simmons has the most game experience of the group, playing in six games for Fish’s Father Lopez team last year. He passed for 294 yards and ran for 131.
The other three quarterbacks will likely play JV, Medlock said. The Bulldogs have no plans to move any of the quarterbacks to other positions.
“I’m going to keep them all, because, you never know,” said Medlock, noting that when he was the quarterbacks coach at Catawba College last year, his top three quarterbacks all got hurt.
“I want them all to stay at quarterback, because I like to grow them,” he said.
FULL CONTACT FOR QBs
As for who will start in the season opener against Live Oak Suwannee, Medlock said he will have a better idea once full contact practices get underway.
Medlock said his quarterbacks won’t be wearing non-contact jerseys during preseason. Quarterbacks are live, he said, until a full-time starter emerges. He said that was University of Miami coach Mario Cristobal’s philosophy when Cristobal was Medlock's head coach at Florida International University.
“Once a starter is proven and earns his stripes from his teammates, he’s not live anymore, because you got to find out,” Medlock said. “Let’s be honest, these days it's all about 7 on 7. They don't know how to look at a rush and go. When they’re coming at you, you can’t sit there and expect to make a good throw.
“It’s unusual,” he said of allowing the quarterbacks to take hits in practice, “but I did it, and I played for a very long time. I got crushed by guys who went on to play in the NFL. Once we get into the game week, it's over with; they're not going to be live. But I got to find out who's going to be my guy.”
The Bulldogs also have depth at wide receiver and running back. But there is no doubt who will be No. 1 guy in the offensive backfield. Junior running back Marcus Mitchell is coming off a 1,000-yard season.
Mitchell sat out spring practice with a strained hamstring, and after playing on an injured ankle last season, he said he’s feeling 100% for the first time in a while.
“Marcus has been looking really good, got a little pep to his step,” Medlock said. “I mean, today (Aug. 4 practice) we threw a swing screen to him, and he took it the whole length of the field. No one was catching him. It was very impressive to watch. You can tell he's got that smile again.”
Medlock said Mitchell could be catching more passes this season. He caught six passes for 140 yards last season.
With (Marcus Mitchell), we can have him out there (with an empty backfield) and throw a quick screen to him to make the DBs try to tackle him. And there ain't no kid that wants to tackle a 220-, 230- (pound running back) right to the face." —JAKE MEDLOCK, FPC offensive coordinator
“He kind of showed himself a little bit in 7 on 7,” Medlock said of Mitchell. “We would normally get an empty (backfield) and have all receivers, but with him, we can have him out there in empty and throw a quick screen to him to make the DBs try to tackle him. And there ain't no kid that wants to tackle a 220-, 230- (pound running back) right to the face. So we’re just trying to find all different ways to get him the ball with what we have around him.”
Mitchell said he’s enjoying the new offense.
“It's my style. I'm having a lot of fun,” he said. “We're including most of the team. It's not just mainly me that’s getting the ball. We’re basically spreading the ball around the offense.”