The Next Great Quaterback?

Notre Dame commitment Evan Sharpley didn't plan on being the next great quarterback to come out of the storied Marshall high school football program. Like his predecessors, Todd Reynolds, Jimmy Clemons, and Ryan Van Dyke, all former DI quarterbacks to attend Marshall high school, his greatness was a product of God-given talent, and an offense that capitalized on his strengths.

"Ever since Evan was in fifth grade we knew he was special. He had great mechanics, great feet, and amazing arm strength for a boy his age," said Marshall head football coach Rich Hulkow. "Once he entered high school we wanted to structure our offense around his abilities."

Capitalizing in Sharpley's natural quarterback skills last season was successful. For the first five games, Marshall boasted a 5-0 record and a No. 2 state ranking.

But this soon changed. Poor execution at the end of games resulted in Marshall losing it's final five games by a combined 22 points. Coach Hulkow believes last year's debacle was both uncharacteristic, and had a lot to with a series of bad breaks.

"Our record last year was 5-5," Hulkow said. "We played uncharacteristically. It seemed like we were getting a series of bad breaks. We were two plays away in each of our final five games from being 10-0."

Sharpley saw first hand Marshall's atypical bad play. But, despite having a young receiving corps, Sharpley is optimistic about this year's squad, and believes last years losing, along with a recent overtime loss, will bring the team closer.

"It's hard to put a finger on what caused the losing streak, but it was like contagious," Sharpley said. "To improve on last year, we have been working on our team chemistry and just coming together.

"Last week we lost 56-50 in overtime. Something like that is going to build character. Plus, we have to run sprints for all the points we gave up. That's motivation."

Motivation is what drives Sharpley. After losing in his final five games last year, Sharpley committed himself to becoming a better quarterback. Participating in summer 7-on-7 drills and lifting weights helped Sharpley's overall game, desire to improve his foot mechanics and faking ability. The assistance of his father and a steady diet of film study also helped these areas.

"Good throwing starts at the lower body, so I've been working on my set-up," Sharpley said. "My father and I have been going to the sand pits and doing some drops in the sand. This has helped with my foot mechanics.

"I've also been watching a lot of tape. The film doesn't lie, and it's a good way to critique myself. Through watching film I've seen that I need to improve my play action fakes."

Coach Hulkow agrees with Sharpley that his play action needs to improve, but feels that his star quarterback has progressed in this area compared to last season, and is starting to improve in other areas.

"Compared to last year, Evan has improved his faking abilities and play action," Hulkow said. "He has also made steady progress in recognizing defensive schemes.

"Last year he also sometimes held the ball too long. This year he has been able to recognize when things break down and make some great runs. This has enabled us to keep drives alive."

Sharpley's motivation and drive also carry over into the classroom, where the star quarterback is enrolled in many advanced placement courses and carries a GPA well above 3.5. Academics are certainly first, and this is just part of reason for Sharpley committing to Notre Dame.

"Notre Dame has a great balance of academics and athletics," the future Irish quarterback said. "Plus, the TV and TV contact is great. They want to win there.

"I also want to play baseball in college. Notre Dame has a great baseball team. I've already spoke to their coach about also playing baseball there."

With an intelligent and athletically gifted quarterback leading the way, the sky's the limit for Marshall this season. With an overtime loss under their belts, Sharpley will be called upon to put his off-season training in use and make plays that only great quarterbacks can make.

This shouldn't be a problem. As coach Hulkow said, "I hate to sound blasé, but Evan makes great plays. We're accustomed to it."

That's what happens when you have the next great quarterback.


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