A lot of people, including me, enjoyed watching C.J. Uzomah in action for the North Gwinnett Bulldogs in their regionally-televised exhibition game against Grayson this past Saturday. But nobody probably found it more than enjoyable than Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.
The Tigers’ mad scientist of an offensive coordinator spent a lot of time convincing Uzomah he should come to the Plains to play a multiple-position in their offense next year rather than just a plain ol’ quarterback. And Uzomah, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound athlete, concurred with his commitment over LSU and several others late last month.
Well, it just so happens that North Gwinnett coach Bob Sphire, a bit of an offensive guru himself, had similar plans for Uzomah this season. So rather than take every meaningful snap at quarterback as he did in leading the Bulldogs to a 12-1 record last season, Uzomah about half the game split out at wide receiver.
And the results were impressive. Uzomah was 8-of-10 passing for 61 yards and two touchdowns as a quarterback and had three catches for another 67 yards — including a 46-yard TD — as a wide receiver in the Bulldogs’ 28-15 win over Grayson. Uzomah also had several good runs out of the backfield.
Meanwhile, Uzomah’s “backup” at quarterback, junior Scott Housch, was 6-of-9 passing for 123 yards and two scores, including the 46-yard deep post to Uzomah. He also had a 48-yard TD strike to Connor Jenkins.
So it worked out well for everybody. Well, except for Grayson.
“I was real pleased,” Sphire said. “Scotty’s ready to play. He’d probably be starting almost anywhere else. So he can play.”
Uzomah played the majority of the first half at quarterback and Housch the majority of the second. Sphire said they ended up almost 50-50 on QB snaps.
“I don’t know that’s exactly what we’ll do every week,” Sphire said. “I think the flow of certain games could dictate one or the other. I don’t know that it will always play out 50-50 but I figure that’s about what it will be by the end of the season.”
LSU and Georgia were among several programs that offered Uzomah as a quarterback, though almost all talked to him about playing other positions if it didn’t work out. At Auburn, Malzahn is talking about lining up Uzomah as a wideout, a tight end and occasionally as the “quarterback” in the wildcat formation he made famous at Arkansas.
That’s all well and good but both Uzomah and Sphire said his dual role at North has nothing to do with what he’ll be doing in college.
“Honestly, it’s about winning now and about getting Scotty prepared for next year,” said Uzomah, who played wide receiver for the Bulldogs as a sophomore when Michael Tamburo was the quarterback. “Going into the season Coach Sphire had a plan and told me he was going to bring in Scotty. Having us both on the team adds another dimension to the offense.”
Said Sphire: “It’s about winning games. That’s the whole thing. C.J. can’t throw it to himself and he’s obviously a matchup problem for the defense. We talked about it last winter. When Scotty’s in there that gives us more playmakers on the field and more options. C.J.’s always been a team player so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.”
It may be more important than ever that the Bulldogs have more than one opotion at quarterback. They’re having to replace four starters off their offensive line, including SEC signees JaWuan James (Tennessee) and Austin Shepherd (Alabama). And they lost one starter, junior guard Austin Parker, to an MCL sprain this past Saturday. He’s expected to be out at least three or four weeks.
“When I do play quarterback I feel like I bring the ability play physical and move the ball on the ground as well as through the air,” Uzomah said.
Sphire and Malzahn obviously agree.