Wes Carroll: A Steady Improvement

St. Thomas Aquinas High School quarterback Wes Carroll is one of the top quarterbacks in the state of Florida. Part of that is due to his ability, but a major portion can also be attributed to his work ethic and how long he has been playing quarterback.

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"I started playing flag football when I was either 8 or 9," said Wes. "And all my friends were doing it. My older brother, Beau, played, too." And it could be said that Beau played almost too hard, at least when it pertained to his little brother.

"I almost had a career-ending blow when (Beau) tripped me during practice and broke my tibia in half. I was 8 years old, almost nine," said Wes. "My tibia was shattered in half. I think I was on crutches for about 6 months. Flag football is pretty rough (laugh). Then, I re-broke it right after I got out of (the cast)."

A tough-minded youngster, Wes didn't let a couple of broken bones stop his budding career. But he did have to continue it in another state. And that was also when he first became a quarterback.

"About that time, we moved from Florida to Cooperstown, New York. That's when I started Pee Wee football," said Wes. "I was playing quarterback and middle linebacker."

While he now has a golden arm, back then it wasn't his arm that earned him the quarterback position, but his intelligence.

"My friend's dad was the coach. He put the guy out there who could remember all the plays and know what to do all the time," said Wes.

He continued his quarterback duties at the next level. And his quarterback skills continued to get better.

"I played Pee Wee until I was in the 6th grade. The 7th and 8th grade I played modified football. I played quarterback and defensive back," said Wes. "That's when I started throwing more and started becoming more of a quarterback. And that's when I saw that I had potential."

And he carried that potential to yet another state, North Carolina.

"After my 8th grade year, we moved from New York to the Charlotte, North Carolina area due to my dad's job," said Wes. "We ended up staying there for a year."

Although he continued to play quarterback, the style of offense didn't allow him to progress as much as he would have liked as a passing quarterback, but it did develop his ball-handling.

"The style of offense we ran was the triple option," said Wes, a backup freshman quarterback. "To learn the triple option is mind-boggling if you have never heard of it, which I never had. We were at (summer) camp for about a week and I finally started getting the hang of it. We went undefeated and won the state (3A) championship."

Wes was looking forward to the next season because the starting quarterback had graduated, but once again he and his family moved, this time to his present school.

"My dad told me that we were moving again, but he told me that they would find a great school for me. That spring break, we visited Florida and went to St. Thomas (Aquinas High School)," said Wes. "It looked real nice as far as academics, which was the main issue. The sports was just a bonus."

As you would expect Wes started out as bottom man on the depth chart at quarterback. And having played in a triple option offense hindered him at first.

"I was at their camp and I'm about 7th or 8th on their depth chart and I'm hearing things that I have never heard in my life, things like where to throw it, how to throw it. I'm in shock that there is this whole game that I didn't know about," said Wes, now a sophomore. "I obviously struggled and had no idea what was going on. When the camp was over - and I didn't find this out until later - Darren Slack, who comes up to help us each summer, told Coach Smith that the only positive that I had was ball-handling, which goes hand-in-hand with running the triple option. He didn't say this condescendingly, but he said I had a lot of work to do because I had very poor mechanics and a weak arm. At that point, I'm still deep in the depth chart."

But Wes, who has exceptional intelligence, learned quickly and moved up the depth chart.

"We are going through summer came and I'm progressing and moving up. By the time summer camp ended, I was number 2 behind the senior quarterback," he said. "Basically, I was given opportunities and chances to prove myself. By constantly repeating the drills and doing them the right way even if they didn't look good, it started clicking. After that, things started looking pretty good and I thought maybe I would get to start two years, if not sooner."

Due to an injury, he wound up starting sooner than expected.

"During the season, I continued to get better," said Wes. "Then, about halfway through the season the senior (quarterback) got hurt, so I started taking the first-string snaps and proved that I could control the game with my leadership and playing ability. When he came back, we shared time."

Wes, knowing the starting quarterback job was his once the season concluded, wasted little time preparing.

"After we lost at State my sophomore year, that's when I started going to work with my receivers. We were out there almost everyday during the summer building chemistry and working on our timing and routes," said Wes. "My receivers and myself were on the same page and knew what each was thinking. That was such a key to our success my junior year."

He also starting noticing that he might actually be more than just a good high school quarterback.

"By the end of the summer I realized my full potential as a player. That's when I realized I can control the game and the team and go places with my ability," he said. "I also noticed during a couple of the practices that I could put velocity on the ball. And I was throwing it deep, too."

He even won over Coach Slack, a man who voiced his doubts just a year before.

"Slack told me after we had completed the camp how much I had improved and that I could take my ability to the next level," said Wes. "He definitely saw the improvement."

And his coaches made sure they took advantage of that improvement ... as well as his strong ball-handling skills learned from his days as a triple option quarterback.

"We threw more last year than we have in a long time. I think Coach Smith and the other coaches realized that if we are going deep in the playoffs then we have to be able to throw in addition to run," said Wes. "Also, because I ran the option I was able to teach the other players how to do it and we actually ended up running a lot of option last year. That was really the first time that our school had actually run it."

And his coaches have even more confidence in him this year.

"I talk a lot every week with my quarterback coach, Coach (John) Hackett, and, obviously, with my head coach, Coach (George) Smith. Cris Carter, a future Hall of Famer, is another coach whose first year was last year," said Wes. "We all talk about ideas and what we can do with the personnel that we have. They listen to me a lot. It's very uplifting to me that they have a lot of confidence in me. They know that I have been in the system a long time.

"Another coach who helps me a lot is Dave Bilitier. He's another of our quarterback coaches. He gives me a lot of free rein because he likes the fact that I go up there and audible a lot. They give me a lot of freedom when I'm on the field. If I see something, they let me go for it. If I want to change a play - as long as it's better and it works better - they have no problem with it."

His high school coaches aren't the only coaches that like what they have seen from Wes.

"College coaches first saw me the spring between my sophomore and junior seasons. Honestly, it was after my sophomore season, but before my spring. They saw me due to looking at the linemen that (signed with colleges)," said Wes. "There were a couple of coaches that talked to my coach and told him that they were very interested in me and that they were going to look at me a lot. And as soon as I heard that, I was jumping for joy. I saw my friends talking to colleges all the time. And you think that's never going to happen to me. Then, when it actually does, it's such an incredible feeling to know that someone actually wants you. As much as I know I can play, it's still such a confidence-builder."

You would think with so many college coaches now interested in him, that he would be chomping at the bit to take in as many college camps as possible this summer. Not Wes. He explained why.

"I'm not going to any camps that I know of. That really isn't even that big of a concern, believe it or not. I think I've had enough exposure from two spring practices with all the college coaches out there," said the pragmatic youngster. "My coach is best friends with a lot of college coaches. He talks to all of them. And they all have my game film. If they want to talk to me, Coach Smith will get them on the phone so that I can talk to them. Mostly, this summer, we are going to (high school) 7 on 7 camps and work on our routes, our packages and our defense, things like that. What I am most concerned about my senior year is how far we go and how well we do."

And he's expecting big things from his team his senior season.

"We've been to the state (championship game) twice and lost. The third time is a charm. We are chomping at the bit to get there again," said Wes. "And I think we have a good shot. We have all of our skill guys coming back on offense. We just have to work on our line, which I think will be ok. We have 8 guys on defense returning from last year."

As for personal goals, they are much more modest than his team goals.

"I broke a couple of records last year for touchdown passes in a season and in a game. It would be nice to break them again. I also want to gain a lot more rushing yards and rushing touchdowns," said Wes, failing to mention any All-State or All-American honors as his personal goals. "Last year, I ran a lot, but only if it was necessary due to the chances of getting hurt. And that would have hurt the team more than anything. This year, my biggest goal is for my rushing yards to take a dramatic increase."

While he's focused on the upcoming season, college coaches are focusing on him.

"NC State, Mississippi State, Duke and Central Florida have offered me," said Wes. "Most recently, Nebraska, Iowa, South Carolina, Alabama and Purdue are showing interest in me. Stanford is waiting for the SAT score because that is the only way they'll know if they can offer me."

As for who is at the top of his wish list, Wes is not ready to narrow his list down just yet.

"I'm open to any school. I'll go wherever I need to," he said.

And we at Scout.com will continue to follow him as his recruitment heats up.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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