Texas 7-on-7 football offers glimpse into the future for area schools, quarterbacks

Texas 7-on-7 football offers glimpse into the future for area schools, quarterbacks

The value of 7-on-7 football is an oft-debated one.

Is it a real opportunity for athletes to develop and for coaches to evaluate them? Or is it an enhanced version of backyard football sans linemen?

But for coaches who’ll be trotting out a new starting quarterback this fall, the 7-on-7 period can offer a glimpse into the future.

“There’s always learning opportunities,” Flower Mound Marcus offensive coordinator Tim Morrison said. “We pretty much put it on our quarterback, offensively, because it gives him a great opportunity to run the show a little bit and, and kind of see what he likes, and situationally see what he likes to call.”

Marcus, a bi-district finalist in the fall, is one of 23 Dallas-area programs 7-on-7 teams have qualified for the state tournament this weekend in College Station. Its also one of the several programs that’ll have a newly minted starting quarterback running its offense come September.

Cole Welliver, a sophomore four-star recruit, will replace the graduated Jaxxon Warren behind center for Marcus this fall. The 6-foot-6 signal caller — who lists offers from Arizona State, Colorado, UTSA and others — battled Warren for the starting job as a freshman in 2021, but was named the backup and completed 91 passes in relief.

But Marcus’ offense will be under his command this upcoming season. The 7-on-7 period, Morrison said, has been valuable for Welliver as he develops a deeper understanding of the playbook (Marcus’ 7-on-7 team runs the same plays as the fall squad) and grows as a leader. Marcus will play Houston Heights in its Division I state tournament opener at 1:45 pm Friday.

Here’s what 10 local head coaches think about 7-on-7 football

“It’s probably the most important thing we have going on through the 7-on-7 season,” Morrison said. “Cole still got a lot of reps [last year], but now it’s his. And I think for Cole, that confidence that we have in him, and he’s grown just through doing this, I think that’s huge. Keeping his confidence high and talking him through how to be a leader.”

Ditto for DeSoto, where rising junior DJ Bailey will replace Matt Allen at quarterback. Allen passed for 2,849 yards and 43 touchdowns and led DeSoto (11-3) to the 6A Division I Region II finals. Bailey, who missed the season’s first five games with a thumb injury, threw nine touchdowns to one interception as Allen’s backup.

He’ll now be QB1 for a team with state title aspirations, and he’ll be passing to five-star wide receiver Johntay Cook II — the third-ranked player on The Dallas Morning News’ top 50 recruits list who’s caught 29 touchdowns in the last few seasons — and rising sophomore Daylon Singleton, who lists seven FBS offers.

Establishing an early connection with Cook II and Singleton — and the rest of DeSoto’s offense which averaged 45.36 points last season — is key.

“This is really helping us out, because it gives us the chance to evaluate him even more,” DeSoto coach Claude Mathis said. “He has the chance to work with [his wide receivers] and get the timing down. They’re all learning the offense all over again, so this gives him and the receivers a great chance to build a connection.”

Both Morrison and Mathis will relish in the opportunity to watch their quarterbacks operate, essentially, as coaches. Though this weekend’s state 7-on-7 tournament includes teams representing area high schools, their coaches are not permitted to participate.

If mistakes are made in the fall, the quarterback returns to a sideline staffed with coaches, coordinators and video replays. In 7-on-7, adjustments are made on the fly and by the players themselves.

That experience, both said, is vital for quarterback development. It’ll be especially helpful for Rockwall-Heath, where first-year head coach John Harrell must find a successor to TCU quarterback Josh Hoover. Unlike Welliver and Bailey’s cases, a competition remains.

Rising senior Collin Liles and rising junior Caleb Hoover, Josh’s brother, are both playing for Heath’s 7-on-7 team and will contend for the starting job in the fall. Liles attempted just one pass as Hoover’s back up in 2021, while Caleb Hoover didn’t take a snap at quarterback.

This weekend in College Station, where Heath will open the state tournament against Temple on Friday at 3:15, gives both an opportunity to showcase their talents. But, as Harrell said, only so much stock can be put into 7-on-7 performances.

“I’m not going into 7-on-7 thinking, ‘Hey, we’ve got to find our quarterback at 7-on-7,’” Harrell said. “We’re going to find that out [in preseason]. For us, it’s more about competing and team bonding. We’re going to go down there, we’re going to have fun, we’re going to hangout with each other. I think that’s the bigger thing — the team bonding and the competition.”

That doesn’t mean there can’t be on-field gains, though.

“I want to see them make good decisions with the football,” Harrell said. “I want to see them move the chains. If it’s third and six, I don’t want to see shots at the end zone. I want to see them move the ball. Sometimes throwing the ball away is not a bad decision. The biggest thing, our quarterback coach and offensive coordinator told them, is yes we’re playing 7-on-7, but still act like there’s people rushing. Move your feet, don’t just sit there.

“That’s really what I want to see out of them. Make good decisions, and compete.”

On Twitter: @McFarland_Shawn

10 players to watch at the 2022 7-on-7 state tournament in College Station

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