North Division champion Itawamba Community College, rebuilding Northeast and Northwest suffer from the same complication as fall practice starts.

All three have two quarterbacks unwilling to accept the second spot.

"It has been good to see two great quarterbacks going at it," Northwest coach Bobby Franklin said of scrambler Willie Gardner and passer Chris Ryan.

For Northeast's new coach, Laurin Collins, about the only thing positive he can find right now is that Aaron Foster of Iuka and Bart Doran of Alcorn Central are not giving ground to each other

"It's gotten worse," ICC coach Jay Miller said of the quarterback contest between Gary Peete and Kwasi Cockrell. "They are both doing a super job."

Every one of the six quarterbacks is a freshman.

Comedy of frustration

Collins' first week of practice at Booneville has been a study of frustration.

"This is a unique situation. It is the first time in my (30-year) coaching career where I ever went out on the field and nobody knows what we are trying to do," Collins said.

He didn't have the benefit of spring drills to drill the dozen veterans back from an 0-10 team. There is nobody to use to demonstrate techniques. "Right now I don't see how we're going to make a first down."

Collins has had to fight the foul-ups of starting from scratch along with the paperwork flood of transcripts, scholarships and registration; and you can throw in the complications of a broken sewer line in the dorm.

"For a coach it's hard to find anything funny, but I guess there's a lot of comical things going on right now," he said.

Painful cutbacks

Also not comical for the coaches is the task of paring the rosters down to the 55 maximum junior colleges are allowed to practice with, including walk-ons.

"We stayed up to 2 a.m. Wednesday morning trying to make those decisions," Collins said.

"We had to cut 16 yesterday, but most still registered here and are talking about coming back out in the spring," Miller said. "It is hard and heartbreaking."

Big breakthrough

Most juco walk-ons have a slim chance, at best, of making a team. One who avoided that cut at ICC is 6-5, 313-pound defensive lineman Larry Johnson of Memphis, whom Miller calls one of his biggest surprises (pun intended).

Johnson gives Miller an impressive five-man mix on the defensive line that includes 330-pound Terris Burns, 285-pound Michael Pounds, 280-pound Lydell Baker, who gets a cast off a broken ankle today, and the shrimp 259-pound Carnell Houston of Okolona.

Miller calls that the weak point of his defense. His strength is the secondary with David Godfrey, and a pair of Amory newcomers, Scott Hanes and Anthony McIntosh, joining lone backfield veteran Calvin Plant.

Houston connection

Miller singled out a pair of Houston athletes, calling Tony Johnson "the best linebacker I've ever coached," and running back Tim Earl Evans "the best running back in the conference."

Asked how recruiters could have overlooked Evans, who ran for 1,000 yards in eight games last year, Miller said:

"We overlooked Tim ourselves for nearly four weeks. But you can't overlook him when the lights go on."

Mike Talbert is a sports writer for the Daily Journal.

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