SPORTS >> Devil QB recovered, ready
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
Jacksonville spent very little time during the first week of two-a-days practicing in full pads. That changed this week, but the excitement on the field apparently has not.
Of all the returning starters at the skill positions, none have been more eagerly and anxiously awaited as quarterback Daniel Hubbard. Hubbard suffered a broken leg in the Red Devils’ playoff loss to state champion Springdale last year, and has slowly recovered over the course of the past several months.
He has peformed well during summer seven-on-seven meets, and says he’s now fully recovered.
“The leg’s great, I’m at 100 percent now,” Hubbard said. “I think I got there about midway through the summer. I hardly think about it now.”
Hubbard is still being protected during full-contact practices. He’s wearing the green jersey that says to defensive players, ‘do not hit’.
Hubbard says his teammates have stayed energetic during two-a-days, but admits that the heat does get burdensome.
“It’s hot,” Hubbard said. “We’ve stuck it out. We’re doing a pretty good job staying after it, but it’s been really hot, and that can get to you. It’ll pay off in our conditioning though. It should help us late in games.”
Hubbard, who has started since the second game of his sophomore year, sees a difference in this preseason practice, compared to the last two. The most glaring difference is the advanced state at which the offense started practice.
“The last two years the defense has been way ahead of the offense when we started,” Hubbard said. “This year I think the offense is ahead. We’ve executed really well. The receivers are catching the ball really well, and of course we’ve got awesome running backs.”
There’s one other difference Hubbard has noticed with this group.
“Everybody gets along real good. There are no attitudes.”
At receiver, Hubbard will have a couple of new, and big, targets.
Seniors Marcus King and Norvel Gabriel will split wide this season. King has been a wideout since his sophomore year, but hasn’t been an every-down player. That is going to change when Sept. 1 rolls around.
“Marcus King has always had all the physical tools to be awesome,” Hubbard said. “Now he’s catching the ball really well and he’s going to be huge for us. He’s tall and real fast.”
Gabriel, 6-foot-4, played mostly defensive end last year, and played a few snaps at tight end. Hubbard doesn’t see the transition as much of a problem.
“Norvel Gabriel is huge. He’s an easy target and he catches it real well too.”
Senior Blake Mattison and junior Tirrell L’Hrisse are returning as consistent and dependable targets from last year.
Hubbard also recognizes Jacksonville’s uncertainty on the interior, but expects that area to come around and be solid.
“We’re going to be small, but quick on the line,” Hubbard said. “I think they’ll come on and be really good. I’m not too worried about it.”