New quarterback, same results for Troup
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The Troup Tigers boasted one of the state’s most prolific passing attacks last season, with senior quarterback Montez Crowe putting up monster numbers from the first game to the last.
When the season ended with a heart-breaking 43-35 loss to St. Pius X in the second round of the state playoffs, it marked the end of Crowe’s phenomenal run as Troup’s quarterback.
As the Troup coaches began putting together a game plan and a potential lineup for the 2018 season, the most pressing question was who would take over for Crowe?
What player would step in to fill that considerable void?
For quarterbacks coach Paul Brewer, who groomed Crowe and helped develop him into one of Georgia’s best players at that position, the answer was an obvious one.
During his time at Long Cane Middle School, Kobe Hudson was a dynamic quarterback, and when he arrived at Troup as a freshman before the 2016 season, Brewer knew he was special.
How soon did Brewer come to the realization that Hudson could be a big-time high-school quarterback?
“When Kobe walked on campus his ninth-grade year,” Brewer said.
For Hudson’s first two seasons at Troup, though, he was a wide receiver, and he was terrific, amassing some gaudy statistics while catching passes from Crowe.
Following the 2017 season, Brewer began getting ready Hudson to be Crowe’s successor.
Just as he did with Crowe, Brewer worked closely with Hudson during the offseason, preparing him to lead an offense that asks so much from the quarterback.
After seeing Hudson in practice, in seven-on-seven competitions, in the film room, and in team meetings, Brewer felt confident the offense was going to be in good hands.
There was a competition between Hudson and Nick Schweizer, but for Brewer there was never much doubt who would man that position when the season opened.
“To me, Kobe was the guy,” Brewer said.
Still, there are no guarantees in sports, so as confident as Brewer and the other coaches were in Hudson’s ability, he was an unproven quarterback. Being a star wide receiver is one thing, being the quarterback is another.
“A quarterback, you’re pretty much accepting responsibility,” Brewer said. “If a receiver doesn’t run the right route, if somebody doesn’t block, it’s going to be on the kid throwing the ball.”
Brewer believed Hudson not only had the physical ability, but the intelligence and mental strength to handle the responsibility, and he’s been proven right so far.
The Tigers are 4-0 and are averaging 42 points per game, and Hudson is a big reason why.
Hudson has completed 48-of-78 passes for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns, and he has only thrown two interceptions, and one of them came on the final play of the first half of last week’s game against Callaway when he threw the ball up for grabs in the end zone.
While the passing numbers look a lot like Crowe’s, Hudson adds an extra element that the offense didn’t have a year ago.
Hudson is a pass-first quarterback, but he is a dangerous runner as well, and he has 246 yards on 27 carries with five touchdowns.
As high-powered as the offense was a year ago, it could be even more dangerous this season with Hudson at the helm.
“The secret is having good players,” Brewer said. “If you have good players, now you can go to work. We’ve got a system of throwing we believe in. We believe in what we do. At the same time, you’ve got to have kids able to do it.”
While Crowe and Hudson both clearly have the makeup to be successful quarterbacks, Glisson credits Brewer with helping both men achieve their potential.
When Brewer arrived at Troup he was also the head boys’ basketball coach, but now he focuses solely on football as the quarterbacks coach.
“That’s his niche,” Glisson said. “He gave up basketball, and just poured himself into that. He’s just really good at teaching. He’s a teacher, and that’s really what you need out of your quarterbacks coach is somebody who can teach. He’s done a tremendous job with that.”
The proof is in the numbers.
During Glisson’s first season as head coach in 2015, Troup went 1-9, and it was a no-frills offense that was heavily reliant on the run.
Dexter Shealey was Troup’s starting quarterback for most of that season, and he threw for fewer than 1,000 yards.
In the final game of that season, the coaches felt it was time to hand the keys to Crowe, and the sophomore led Troup to a 28-0 victory over Whitewater.
When that season ended, offensive coordinator Kelby Holt and Brewer began to transform the offense into one that would heavily feature the pass and would get a host of players involved.
“When I first got here, we were split-back veer,” Brewer said. “We were going to throw it four times a game. And then coach Holt got here. We’ve worked together well, and coach Holt, he kind of brought the plan and he does a great job with that.”
A plan is only as good as a player’s ability to carry it out, so Brewer knew he had to get Crowe ready to be a guy who could throw the ball 20 or 30 times a game.
That mission was a successful one.
After a solid junior season, Crowe was extraordinary last year, throwing for nearly 4,000 yards with 40 touchdowns while leading the Tigers to a 9-3 record.
Now, Hudson is in the process of creating an impressive quarterback legacy of his own, and Glisson gives Brewer and all of the offensive coaches ample credit for that.
“That whole staff works very well together,” Glisson said. “They just do such a great job. We’re looking at one of the most prolific offenses that’s ever been in Troup County, from what they can do from a throwing, and running standpoint. It’s the whole package. You have one kid in Montez who left here as Troup’s all-time passing leader. And you’ve got somebody who’s challenging him right now for breaking all his records.”
Brewer said Crowe and Hudson both have the mental strength to be the quarterback, to take the heat that comes with playing that position.
“Number one, they’ve got to lead the team,” Brewer said. “If something bad happens, nobody’s coming to rescue them on Friday night, so they’ve got to be willing to lead. And when it’s over with, they have to be willing to learn, and go back and make adjustments quick. That’s the thing both of them have in common is they’re both extremely smart. They can both comprehend. They may both have all the skill in the world, but you have to understand what the other team is trying to do to you.”
While there are plenty of similarities between Hudson and Crowe, they are not the same person, and Brewer has had to coach them differently.
“That’s a lot of what we do, is getting to know the kid,” Brewer said. “It’s not just a cookie-cutter style. It’s the same information, it’s the same philosophy, but it’s got to adapt to that kid. How’s he going to be receptive to it.”
With Crowe and Hudson, a lot of the preparation for the season took place during the summer months, well before official preseason practice began in late July.
“It was non-stop, and you have to,” Brewer said. “With the offensive style we run, it’s a lot. We pretty much kept them here all summer, getting everybody on the same page.”
This summer was a valuable one for Hudson since he was making the transition from receiver to quarterback.
“He wasn’t at that same level right then as some of those seasoned guys,” Brewer said. “Then he started understanding. What we’d tell him is you’ve got to get in the film room. This is why these guys are so good.”
Brewer said one thing he never had to worry about with Hudson was his ability to stand tall when the pressure is the greatest.
“Now, what makes Kobe special to me is, he has such a will for the big moment,” Brewer said. “He wants to be that guy.”
Hudson’s biggest test to date came last week when Troup took on Callaway in a matchup of unbeaten teams.
All Hudson did was complete 14-of-22 passes for 338 yards with four touchdowns, two apiece to Jamari Thrash and Mark-Anthony Dixon.
Hudson also had a 3-yard touchdown run.
While Troup pulled away late for a 37-20 win, it was the first time this season Troup was pushed in the second half.
It was tied early in the second half, and Troup’s lead was only 10 points until it scored the clinching touchdown on Hudson’s scoring run.
“I was looking forward to a four-quarter game to see how my team was going to react with the pressure, and we handled it really well,” Hudson said.
After taking a 14-0 lead in the first half, Callaway stormed back to tie it on its first possession of the second half.
Momentum was going Callaway’s way, but Brewer said Hudson wasn’t fazed.
“Montez would have streaks to where if something wasn’t going well it would affect him a little bit,” Brewer said. “I kind of expected to see some of that the other night. Callaway tied it, and there was never any of that.”
Brewer said Hudson continually made the right choice when it was time to pick a target.
“The way we set it is, it may be one play, but based on coverage, whatever you give us may change how we see the field,” Brewer said. “For the most part, he’s seeing it right. He saw it well the other night. I’m not sure he was off by more than six inches on any throw he made.”
Hudson is enjoying the ride.
He knows that whoever he throws the ball to, whether it’s Thrash, Dixon, Ja’Rell Smith or Joko Willis, there’s a good chance the play is going to be a successful one.
“It’s like a video game,” Hudson said. “It’s real fun. For me, I don’t focus on myself. I like to get my teammates the ball. That makes them better.”
Hudson became a major college recruit as a wide receiver, and he has verbally committed to Auburn.
Whether Hudson plays quarterback in college remains to be seen, but if he chooses that path Brewer has no doubt he’ll succeed.
“If he wants to keep playing quarterback, it’ll be scary how good he can be,” Brewer said.