After a historic 2018 season, the Jaguars’ aspirations remain high as they open up their 2019 campaign against the Madison County Raiders. Yet a glaring question still stands: who will replace the Jags’ All-Region offensive trio?
The senior triad of dual-threat quarterback Ki’Yonice Smith and the combination of shifty and power running styles from Devontaye Bankston and Osiris Walker averaged 190 yards per game on the ground. Smith, Bankston, and Walker totaled 2,085 yards last season.
“It hurts [losing the seniors] us for sure,” said head coach Leory Ryals. “Some of the young guys are sophomores who played with us last year as freshmen, and hopefully when we get to region games they’ll be more seasoned.”
While the depth chart has mainly been filled, the QB1 job still remains in question.
Sophomore Renardo Faust Jr. primarily serves as a traditional pocket-passing quarterback, relying mainly on his passing accuracy over his mobility. Faust started at quarterback in the Jags’ scrimmage versus West Hall High School, winning 38-12.
Being the starting quarterback could be seen as Faust’s destiny. The last time a Renardo Faust was under center taking snaps, the Jaguars finished with an impressive record of 10-2, losing in the second round of the playoffs.
That was Renardo Faust, Sr. in 2002, who put on a show for the Eastside after starting three years in a row. Faust’s performance garnered a selection as Honorable Mention from the Associated Press All-State team. 17 years later, his son is putting in the work to continue the legacy.
“[My father] helps me with mechanics. Like a lot of people lose their mechanics over the years, so he just helps me just keeping it up even when I’m not practicing,” said Faust.
Faust Sr. was known for his accuracy within the pocket, but Faust Jr. primarily relies on his arm to place the ball for receivers.
“I have a little bit more mobility than he does, and my arm is stronger than his was,” said Faust, comparing himself to his father.
Although Faust can trust his legs when needing to run, his ground game does not compare to the other quarterback getting snaps in last Friday’s scrimmage.
Senior Jalen Rusher started taking significant reps at quarterback two weeks ago, but his inexperience at the position does not deter his playmaking ability.
“He’s a good leader on the field, he has an arm and can throw outside of the pocket and run just like Cook [Ki’Yonice Smith]” said junior wide receiver and kicker Gabe Bush.
Rusher makes an impact on the field no matter what position he’s playing. He’s most comfortable on defense at safety, playing varsity ball since his freshman year.
“Quarterback is a bigger job. You have to look at more on the field and pay attention to everything,” said Rusher.
Rusher gained the majority of the snaps at quarterback after the first quarter, and he did not fail to impress. In the third quarter, Rusher dropped an 18-yard dime to the end zone to senior receiver Rickil Willingham.
“I had a few bad balls,” said Rusher, reminiscing on his production. “I still feel pretty good in the offense. We have a lot of skill players”
Last season, Smith’s 997 passing yards coupled well with Bankston’s and Walker’s combined 1,733 rushing yards. Racking up 14 touchdowns and a 50-percent completion percentage with only six interceptions, Smith proved he could be a threat in the air, something that Cedar has not traditionally seen lately.
So the question remains: who will take over the quarterback helm as the Jaguars hope to make another postseason run?
Whether it’s Rusher or Faust starting, Ryals is confident in both his players.
“We have a game plan intact, and throughout the week we’ll figure out who will play more,” said Ryals.