For the second straight offseason, the Central High football team will be focused on competition and development at the quarterback position.
Former Red Devils triggerman Jamal Howard notified coaches last week that he was leaving the team to focus on baseball, according to football coach Woodrow Lowe. Howard, a Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City baseball first-teamer last spring, has already committed to the University of Alabama baseball team.
Lowe said on Monday that the offseason had been and will continue to be about development, particularly under center, where junior Ethan Baber and freshman Zion Webb will battle for the starting job.
Baber, who started in place of Howard in the team’s first-round playoff game at Spain Park last season, is the favorite, but Lowe said the two will continue to compete and develop into the fall.
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“That’s why we have our spring and summer programs,” Lowe said. “Kids, they’re going to develop. We have a good group of guys, and they’re buying in. This isn’t a (quarterback) race; we’re just going through the process.
“What is most important is the next practice, the next game. The competition never stops. Maybe you were good yesterday, but you can’t focus on that. It’s all about consistency.”
In his lone start last season, Baber completed 11 of 20 passes for 125 yards despite being under constant pressure from Spain Park’s pass rush.
Asked if the team would have to rely more on some of the more established players like highly-touted athlete Traveon Samuel, Lowe wouldn’t say.
“We can’t just come out and say that,” he said. “To me, it’s all about the team. We put players in our program, and they have to understand what they need to do to be the best football player they can be for the team. Football is the ultimate team sport. Guys who focus on team — those are the guys who will be successful.”
Lowe said he is excited for Howard and his opportunities in baseball and supports him in his decision to focus on that sport. He stressed that, while Howard is gone, the team is bigger than one player.
“We’re a team,” Lowe said. “We’ve got a lot of guys on this team who are buying in and doing good things on and off the field. There’s no animosity toward Jamal, or the other way around. He’s moving on, and we’re moving on.”
For the 2013 baseball season, Howard batted .355 with six home runs, 27 RBIs and 18 stolen bases. In 10 games as a quarterback, he passed for 1,270 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions, while rushing for 358 yards and four touchdowns.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.