Behind Carrie, Braves like talent waiting in wings at QB spot

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

LORMAN &045; Here’s a heck of an audition for Oliver Bozeman at quarterback.

The red-shirt freshman out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the only quarterback taking snaps right now in Alcorn’s spring camp. Starter Donald Carrie is out with a case of tendonitis in his shoulder, sophomore Milton Green is out with a broken finger and sophomore Chris Walker is playing on the school’s baseball team.

The starting position still belongs to Carrie, the senior who had his best season ever last fall, and it may take Steve McNair himself to dethrone Carrie. But he’s a senior, and the Braves’ coaching staff is trying to develop depth at the position for the future.

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That’s what Bozeman, a highly touted prospect out of high school, has his eye on.

&uot;I’m going to take advantage of the situation,&uot; said Bozeman, who was set to play at Syracuse after high school while getting interest from LSU, Toledo and Rutgers. &uot;It’s my turn to step up and show the coaching staff I’m ready to play.&uot;

Both Bozeman and Green bring a good bit of talent to the position, and right now Bozeman may have the upper hand on the depth chart. But there’s an great deal of work that goes into learning that position, and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach John McKenzie is bringing both of them along in the three-week spring camp.

Both, however, are left-handers.

&uot;I don’t know if you’ve ever seen our playback, but it’s no joke,&uot; said McKenzie, who played quarterback at Jackson State. &uot;It’s a lot to learn at that position. Carrie came in my first year, and he was a quick learner. Sometimes you get those, and sometimes you don’t. In our offense, you’ve got to be a quick learner. We’ll bring those guys along as slow as possible, but the pace will speed up because of this being Carrie’s last year.&uot;

The two, however, give the Braves depth at the position they didn’t have last season. Fortunately, Carrie was able to avoid any serious injuries and took just about every snap of the season.

Green got in four games last season as a red-shirt freshman, including the 60-7 loss to Stephen F. Austin where he threw a touchdown pass to Charlie Spiller. It took a change to defensive back last spring to realize quarterback may be his best position to be on the field.

&uot;It’s more laid back now,&uot; said Green, who broke the tip of a finger on his throwing hand when it collided with a defensive lineman’s helmet. &uot;I know the program, the offense and the coaching staff. I’m ready to win now. I was playing defensive back, but they had depth back there. I’m trying to get on the field as soon as possible.&uot;

Both have been able to get quality reps in with the offense this spring along with Carrie, and that may contribute heavily to their development. Like all players coming out of high school, freshmen have to get acclimated to the faster pace of the college game.

It’s particularly tougher on quarterbacks, and that’s the learning curve right now.

&uot;The speed of the game is a lot of times what they miss,&uot; McKenzie said. &uot;You can’t really duplicate it in practice, but you can get as close as possible. That’s what the young guys have a hard time dealing with. A young guy like Bozeman, the game is real fast. You’ve got to get that speed where it’s slow to you.&uot;

At least Bozeman has speed of his own to counter it. The former Dillard HS standout has a 40 time in the low 4.5 range, and his ability to make plays on his own when a pass play didn’t work made him a dangerous threat.

The 6-3, 170-pound Bozeman still needs to bulk up a bit. He’s trying to put on another 15 pounds or so.

&uot;That was basically my game plan &045; run first and pass second,&uot; Bozeman said. &uot;A lot of people don’t think I can throw. I stay in the pocket and throw a little bit. I was getting a nice amount of reps (last fall), but they didn’t want to waste my red-shirt year. I was basically watching and learning the game.&uot;

It was that double threat ability that caught the attention of McKenzie, a native of nearby Miami and one-time head coach at Miami Central High School.

&uot;We’ve got to put some weight on him, but he’s got some talent,&uot; McKenzie said. &uot;He’s a double threat. Carrie is pretty much one-dimensional. With Bozeman, when we don’t have a play, instead of getting sacked, he can make things happen. That’s what makes him special. He comes from a good high school that’s used to winning. He’s going to be able to put pressure on defenses.&uot;

And the two really can’t rest between the end of spring and the start of fall camp in August. By that time Walker will be in camp competing for a spot along with two other candidates &045; walk-on Charles Herrington from South Carolina and true freshmen Tomya Robinson out of Thomastown.