Pine Bluff sophomore quarterback Ladarius Skelton has helped guide the Zebras to an undefeated start to the season, but his coaches say he still has a lot of improving to do.
Through two games, Skelton has 269 yards passing, 124 yards rushing and accounted for four touchdowns (two passing and two rushing). More importantly, though, his team has one win, one tie and zero losses.
“The biggest thing is consistency,” Pine Bluff head coach Bobby Bolding said. “Right now, he’s inconsistent in games and practices.
“You really see it in regards to handling the ball. He carries it loose, he makes bad decisions (and) has had exchange issues, but that’s just part of being a sophomore.”
This week, Bolding has focused on improving Skelton’s vertical passing ability as the team prepares for Friday’s home game against North Little Rock.
“It’s not because it’s a big part of our game plan,” Bolding said. “We just haven’t done a good job in the vertical passing game.
“He throws off his back foot a lot, which gets his shoulder high and that causes the ball to sail high, so today I stood out there and hit him with a hand shield while throwing the vertical routes. He started off throwing off his back foot, but got better at standing in there.”
Despite his 124 rushing yards, the 6 feet 1 inch 200-pound QB has found very limited success on the ground so far this season. If you take away his 44-yard touchdown run on Pine Bluff’s first series of the season, Skelton would have just 80 yards rushing on 31 carries (an average of 2.58 yards per carry).
Asked if he worried about the toll Skelton’s carries would take on his body, Bolding said, “I’m not worried about that.
“He’s 200-pounds. He’s probably our biggest back.”
That being said, Bolding thinks the sophomore’s running game can still be significantly improved.
“In junior high he could just run around people,” Bolding said. “He’s got to learn that’s not going to happen at the high school level.
“There are times when he could run over one guy, but instead he tries to juke him and ends up getting hit by four other guys.”
Pine Bluff offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Antonio Lovelady has seen Skelton improve since the spring.
“He has a better concept of the offense,” Lovelady said. “He’s still a work in progress, though.
“But he’s grown a lot from the spring to now.”
Both Bolding and Lovelady have been impressing upon Skelton that he doesn’t have to try and do everything himself.
“It’s not his job to win the game,” Bolding said. “… It’s his job to lead the team to victory, but not do it all by himself.”
“We don’t ask him to win the game for us,” Lovelady said. “We try to tell him, ‘Just do what you’re supposed to do.’”
One thing about Skelton that has impressed Bolding has been the quarterback’s leadership ability.
“He’s a leader,” Bolding said. “He might be the most vocal sophomore leader I’ve ever had.
“And he does it in the right way, too. He doesn’t yell and scream … and he’s also quick to praise them.”
Lovelady has seen the offense embrace the young quarterback.
“They’ve been very receptive to him,” he said.
Aside from his leadership, Bolding sees plenty of reasons why Skelton will continue to improve as he continues his high school career.
“He’s highly intelligent,” the coach said. “He’s got a tremendous work ethic.
“He’s extremely easy to coach, I mean, you can yell at him and he’ll just stand there, and I think that’s because he’s a pretty mature young man.”
Skelton has the chance to be a rare three-year starter at quarterback, but if he fails to continue his improvement, he might not make it through this season on the first-string.
“We’ve got two juniors (Roger Totten and Kenan Brown) who are right on his tail,” Bolding said. “If he continues to struggle, he knows we’ll make a change because I have to do what’s best for the team.
“There is nothing like a little competition to make a guy better.”
Assuming the quarterback competition brings out the best in him, Skelton could develop into a great player sooner rather than later.
“No doubt, the sky’s the limit for him,” Bolding said. “There’s no telling how good he is going to be.”