As Lehigh football approaches the start of the season, a friendly competition has developed in the quarterback room. Both coaches and players agree that the competition is good for the team.
“It makes us focus on the day-to-day stuff and remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed,” said sophomore quarterback Nigel Summerville. “There are more factors now that can affect the team more than ever before.”
While Cross Wilkinson will get the start on Saturday, every quarterback must stay prepared in case they’re needed at any moment.
“Obviously we’re doing everything we can to make sure that no one gets sick, we have athletes getting tested three times a week,” said senior quarterback Addison Shoup. “But you never know what will happen. There’s this next man up mentality that keeps everyone playing their best.”
In the event that a player is pulled due to a COVID-19 exposure, the next player on the depth chart for their position would start.
The possibility that multiple quarterbacks could be out due to an exposure creates an environment where every quarterback on the roster must be prepared to start each week.
As a result, the players are holding their teammates to high standards, both in terms of health and responsibility and on-field excellence.
With this in mind, the team has made an effort to create a bubble in order to reduce the likelihood of a COVID-19 exposure.
In addition to the friendly competition amongst players, another aspect contributing to the morale of the team is their new big brother program.
Created to accommodate new freshman athletes who would otherwise be disconnected from the team due to the pandemic, each upperclassmen on the team has been given a younger player to mentor.
“It was the brainchild of (head) coach (Tom) Gilmore,” said offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Scott Brisson. “I thought it was a really good idea and the players embraced it. It’s good for older players to get to know the young guys and for new players to know that they aren’t alone here.”
Players believe this back-and-forth communication has been a success, helping the team stay close despite many being physically separated.
Brisson said the digital avenue of communication did allow for detailed training methods that he is confident have raised the collective football IQ of the team.
“We have spent a lot of practice time learning in Zoom meetings,” Brisson said. “We’ve spent the time presenting more information and really diving into defense, our run game, and core schemes since we usually don’t have the time to convey all of that.”
More so than any other position on the field, Shoup said these Zoom practices have been the most beneficial for quarterbacks.
“(Quarterbacks) can really take advantage of all of the Zoom time,” Shoup said. “Half of the game is mental so understanding the ins and outs of other positions is very beneficial.”
Despite the circumstances, Shoup said if the team stays on track with what they’re supposed to do, they will be able to look back on the season with fondness.
Brisson said he is confident the most competitive, toughest candidate will be named the starting quarterback, and said the team will be in good shape with that player’s leadership.
As for the atmosphere when the team steps back onto the field for the first time in over a year on March 13, players are expecting energy unlike prior years.
“If you take something away from someone for so long, they’ll do anything to get it back,” Summerville said.