PITTSBURG — Between studying the playbook, watching film and throwing in practice, the quarterback is always preparing.
As the leader of the team and coach on the field, PSU starting quarterback John Roderique spends many hours in preparation to ensure he makes the correct decision every time the ball is in his hands.
“The quarterbacks have to lead our team,” PSU offensive coordinator Steve Rampy said. “Whether we throw it for 400 yards or run it 400 yards, the role of the quarterback in the offense is to enable us to do whatever we have to do to be successful. If that means he has the ball in his hands, then great. If that means he hands the ball off, then that’s great too. Either way, it’s all about leading the offense.”
Every play, every pass and every decision made by the quarterback has to have a purpose and has to be made within seconds, so staying cool under pressure and thinking on his feet is what makes Roderique the man for the job.
“There’s a lot going on and you have to know what everybody is doing every play,” Roderique said. “There’s a lot that goes into it preperation wise and you have to make a lot more reads than most other positions. You have to get your job done on the field and then be there to pat everybody on the back when they do theirs. Whether you had a good drive or a bad one, you have to get everybody ready for the next one, so you really have to be a good leader.”
While Roderique does everything in his power to be well prepared for upcoming games, opponents are also doing their part to try to take away his strengths and exploit any potential weaknesses.
“Besides the physical rigors of playing against really good competition, playing quarterback is very mentally demanding,” Rampy said. “It’s a really well-coached conference and there are great coaching staffs at every school in the MIAA. They do a great job of preparation, trying to take away what we do. In addition to the physical demands that requires being physically tough, fast and strong, you have to be in tune with what’s going on and what the defense is trying to take away.”
Because the strategy of opponents can change on a weekly basis, Roderique has to be able to adjust the gameplan on the fly if need be.
“We have to be flexible enough, yet talented enough to not have to change what we want to do from week to week,” Rampy said. “We don’t do the same thing every week, we tweak things here and there, but our quarterbacks have to be in tune enough to know what they’re trying to take away and be ready to adjust. It’s demanding mentally as well as physically.”
Playing quarterback takes a lot out of an athlete, so working to stay sharp in all aspects of the game is essential to success.
In 2016, Roderique was second in the conference in average passing yards per game at 277.3. In his nine games played, he completed 173 passes with 19 of them going for touchdowns.
“Offensively, I’ve been trying to be a better leader,” Roderique said. “I’ve also been trying to progress the offense. In this conference, it’s hard to run a basic offense because there’s a lot of good teams and you have to play at your peak week in and week out. The way we’re going to do that is just to keep getting better and try to stay one step ahead.”
Although Roderique is expected to be the man under center for the Gorillas this season, an experienced quarterback in Thomas LePage and a young, athletic quarterback in Quez Allen compete for the backup spot.
“Thomas and Quez are battling for the backup spot,” Rampy said. “John is our guy, but Tommy and Quez have to continue to improve and be ready if something were to happen to John, because we can’t have a drop off. They’re both talented players in the their own rights. They don’t quite bring to the table what John does, but they still have to perform well if we need them.”
The quarterback takes on a lot of responsibility, but it takes a team effort to be successful.
“I just have to do my job,” Roderique said. “If everybody else does their job, we’re going to be alright. I can’t play other positions, so it’s not just about me. It’s about the team, doing your job and playing together.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.