2011 Intro: Sam Spence

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Because of its reputation with quarterbacks, Sam Spence transferred into Charlotte Latin School as a ninth grader.

"We attract [offensively skilled] kinds of kids – wide receivers, slot receivers, quarterbacks," Latin head football coach Larry McNulty said. "They like being here because of what we do offensively. My quarterback coach does a very good job of bringing the quarterback along mechanically, plus he is really good at putting the pass offense together and he's very helpful to me during games."

Latin runs, what McNulty calls, "a very sophisticated, college-style pass offense" that includes on-the-run route converting, which isn't commonly used in high school football. The most notable quarterback to come out of that system is North Carolina sophomore Braden Hanson, who threw for 5,623 yards and 81 touchdowns during his high school career.

Spence, a 6-foot-3, 192-pounder, became Latin's starting quarterback last season and completed 139-of-246 passes for 1,710 yards and 16 touchdowns with nine interceptions.

"He has a very strong arm," McNulty said. "He's one of the few kids in this league that we've seen in a while that can throw a field out, which he did several times last year for us. He's accurate. He throws a good deep ball – he keeps it on the field and makes it catchable. And he is surprisingly aggressive and strong running the football – most quarterbacks don't like going down that road but he likes throwing his body around.

"The one thing that my quarterback coach has done a great job with him on is recognizing and understanding coverages. He knows that inside and outside. Some high school quarterbacks get that kind of training and are good at it and some of them aren't."

More importantly, though, Spence helped Latin to an 11-1 record and its fourth NCISAA 11-Man Division I Championship in five years.

"Of course it was definitely a rebuilding year for us with me being a new starter – I had never started a varsity game," Spence said. "We had a new [offensive] line, but we had a returning running back in Jalen Ross, who is a phenomenal player."

While Ross' contributions can't be discounted (1,140 yards and 19 touchdowns), Spence is what made Latin's offense go.

"On just about every pass play that we have, we have what we call ‘a pre-snap read,'" McNulty explained. "We give [Spence] a lot of flexibility to actually check to the appropriate pass versus the defensive front and secondary that he's seeing… And then, of course, he has a post-snap read to tell him where to throw the football."

Spence could be even more productive as a senior.

"What I found with Braden, and I hope will be true of Sam, is that that leap between their junior and senior year, with the experience, the game slows down a little bit, the reads become easier, and instead of making 70-percent good decisions, they make 95-percent good decisions," McNulty said. "…We're hoping that Sam will progress the way most of my quarterbacks have here and make that big leap between the junior and senior year."

For all that he accomplished last season – plus Latin's quarterback reputation – Spence has drawn interest from several colleges including Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Georgia, Louisville, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia

"What I think we're going to see when [the Evaluation Period] rolls around in May is that interest is going to ramp up quite a bit," McNulty said. "… Even in Braden's case, the majority of the interest for him came in the spring."

To help his cause, Spence plans to attend as many college camps as he can. He's considering camping at Clemson, Georgia, UNC, NC State, and South Carolina. Last summer, he camped at Georgia, Louisville, and UNC.

Heading into the recruiting process, two schools definitely stick out in Spence's mind.

"Of course Chapel Hill, because my brother went there and I've been there a lot," Spence said. "Georgia would be a dream come true. That's where I'm from, I'm originally from Georgia and my father and mother went there. Honestly, I just want to play, so wherever I can play best fits me."

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