Arkansas-Monticello quarterback Hunter Leppert (4) gets rid of a pass with a defender bearing down on him during UAM’s scrimmage Saturday at the UAM practice field. Special to the Commercial/Mike Tadlock
MONTICELLO — When Arkansas-Monticello’s preseason camp opened on Aug. 9, UAM head coach Hud Jackson said there was an open competition for the starting quarterback job.
It took a little over a week for Hunter Leppert to prove he is 100 percent back from his torn ACL and regained the form he showed in three games last year.
After Saturday’s scrimmage, Jackson named Leppert, a redshirt freshman, the Boll Weevils’ starting quarterback.
“This is something that we knew was coming and it was good to see him get as comfortable as he has become,” Jackson said. “Hunter’s making the right reads, getting the ball out, understanding where the blitz is coming from. He’s making great throws with great reads.”
Leppert is showing the same potential that earned him the starting job last year. He played in the first game last year before starting the next two contests, but he tore his ACL against Ouachita Baptist, the third game of the year.
Leppert threw for 771 yards on 72 of 119 passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions before behind shut down. During Saturday’s scrimmage, Leppert completed 11 of his last 13 passes, with the two incompletes being dropped. He also threw for three touchdowns.
“Everything feels great and I’ve been ready since OBU,” Leppert said. “That sitting out, I hate it. I knew I was going to come back stronger.”
Leppert battled with senior Damon Wicker, who played eight games at quarterback last year; freshman Jacob Lennox, who played minor league baseball before coming to UAM; junior transfer Canden Dallas, who is out with a shoulder injury; and Texarkana freshman Elgie Richards.
Even though Leppert has been named the starting quarterback, he is going to keep the competition going.
“We competed every day and I am still going to go out there like we are competing and get better every day,” he said. “We are all close. Just being here and having those three games, it benefitted me, but I had to battle for it.”
Jackson said Wicker and Lennox could see time at other positions because of their athleticism. Wicker is officially listed on UAM’s roster as a wide receiver.
Leppert regaining his starting spot may have been the biggest story after Saturday’s scrimmage, but it was not the only one.
Sophomore transfer wide receiver Ivory Washington hauled in two of Leppert’s touchdowns and Leppert was looking Washington’s way a good portion of the scrimmage.
“It was very, very good to see that from Ivory,” Jackson said. “(Saturday), he just found openings. … He is a dynamic enough player where if he gets the ball in his hands, he can make people miss.”
UAM is looking for a wide receiver to step up after losing two of its top receivers last year in D.J. Stephens and Kenneth Robey. Jamal Nixon was third on the team in receptions last year with 30.
Jackson said it took some time for Washington to understand UAM’s complex playbook, which Washington also admitted to.
“When I first came in here, it got to me. … But I settled down and studied the playbook, got it down and it’s full steam ahead,” he said. “I am very confident with what I do. I am sure I will be contributing to UAM.”
UAM’s defense line kept good pressure on the quarterbacks during the scrimmage, which is a good sign since the Boll Weevils will be without All-Conference defensive end Calvin Ursin for the first three games with a torn meniscus in his knee, according to Jackson.
Sophomore Jalen Gorman was one of the players putting pressure on the quarterback and had one sack in the scrimmage. Even without Ursin, he expects a solid year out of the defensive line.
“If we control the line of scrimmage, it makes everyone else’s job easier,” he said. “Three seconds or less is what we want to get to the quarterback, and if we don’t get the sack, force a bad throw.”