The value of 7v7 football is often debated.
Is it a real opportunity for athletes to develop and for coaches to evaluate them? Or is it an extended version of backyard soccer without linemen?
But for coaches who will be rolling out a new quarterback this fall, the 7-on-7 period may offer a glimpse into the future.
“There are always learning opportunities,” said Flower Mound Marcus offensive coordinator Tim Morrison. “We put it on our quarterback offensively because it gives him a great opportunity to run the show a little bit and see what he likes and see what he likes to call situationally.”
Marcus, a fall two-district finalist, is one of 23 Dallas-area programs whose 7-a-side teams have qualified for this weekend’s state tournament in College Station. It’s also one of several programs that will have a newly minted starting quarterback running his offense next September.
Cole Welliver, a four-star sophomore, will replace graduate Jaxxon Warren behind center for Marcus this fall. The 6-foot-6 signal caller — who lists offers from Arizona State, Colorado, UTSA and others — fought Warren for the starting freshman job in 2021 but was named backup and completed 91 passes in relief.
But Marcus’ offense will be under his command next season. The 7-on-7 period, Morrison said, was valuable for Welliver as he develops a deeper understanding of the playbook (Marcus’ 7-on-7 team is running the same games as the fall team) and grows as a leader. Marcus will play Houston Heights in the Division I state tournament opener at 1:45 p.m. Friday.
“That’s probably the most important thing we have in the 7-on-7 season,” Morrison said. “Cole still has a lot of reps [last year], but now it’s his. And I think for Cole, that trust that we have in him and he’s just grown from that, I think that’s huge. Keep his confidence high and teach him how to be a leader.”
Ditto for DeSoto, where up-and-coming DJ Bailey will replace Matt Allen as quarterback. Allen rushed for 2,849 yards and 43 touchdowns to lead DeSoto (11-3) to the 6A Division I Region II Finals. Bailey, who missed the first five games of the season with a thumb injury, threw nine touchdowns on an interception as Allen’s backup.
He will now be QB1 for a team with state title ambitions, handing over to five-star wide receiver Johntay Cook II – the third-place finisher The Dallas Morning News The list of the top 50 recruits who have scored 29 touchdowns in recent seasons — and up-and-coming sophomore Daylon Singleton, who lists seven FBS offers.
Making an early connection with Cook II and Singleton — and the rest of DeSoto’s offense, which averaged 45.36 points last season — is key.
“It really helps us because it gives us a better understanding of him,” said DeSoto coach Claude Mathis. “He has the chance to work with him [his wide receivers] and take the timing down They’re all relearning the offense from scratch, which gives him and the opponents a great opportunity to bond.”
Both Morrison and Mathis will relish the opportunity to essentially watch their quarterbacks as coaches. Although this weekend’s state 7-on-7 tournament features teams representing area high schools, their coaches are not allowed to participate.
If mistakes are made in the fall, the quarterback returns to a sideline staffed with coaches, coordinators and video reps. In 7v7, adjustments are made on the fly and by the players themselves.
That experience, they both said, was critical to the quarterback’s development. It will be especially helpful for Rockwall-Heath, where first-year head coach John Harrell needs to find a replacement for TCU quarterback Josh Hoover. Unlike the Welliver and Bailey cases, competition remains.
Up-and-coming senior Collin Liles and up-and-coming junior Caleb Hoover, Josh’s brother, both play for Heath’s 7-on-7 team and will be fighting for the job in the fall. Liles attempted only one pass as Hoover’s back cover in 2021 while Caleb Hoover failed to snap the quarterback.
This weekend in College Station, where Heath will open the state tournament against Temple on Friday at 3:15 p.m., will give both a chance to show off their talents. But, as Harrell said, there’s only a finite amount that can be put into 7v7 performances.
“I don’t go into 7-on-7 and think, ‘Hey, we’ve got to find our quarterback in 7-on-7,'” Harrell said. “We’ll find out [in preseason]. For us, it’s more about competition and team bonding. We’re gonna go down there, we’re gonna have fun, we’re gonna hang out. I think that’s the bigger thing – the team bonding and the competition.”
However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be wins on the field.
“I want to see them make good decisions with football,” Harrell said. “I want to see them move the chains. If it’s the third and sixth, I don’t want to see shots in the end zone. I want to see how they move the ball. Sometimes throwing the ball away isn’t a bad decision. The most important thing, our quarterback coach and offensive coordinator told them, is that we play 7-on-7 but still pretend people are rushing. Move your feet, don’t just sit there.
“That’s really what I want to see from them. Make good decisions and compete.”
On twitter: @McFarland_Shawn
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