Sargent preparing to lead Titans in final season
Despite not having his number called very often last season in a run-heavy offense, Coal Ridge senior quarterback Jackson Sargent is poised for a big year under center for the emerging Titans, largely due to his experience under Coal Ridge head coach Trorie Rickert, along with the fact that the 6-foot-4, 210-pound quarterback is expected to step up as veteran leader on an improving team.
Calling the signals last season for the 3-6 (1-4 3A Western Slope League) Titans, Sargent was rarely asked to air out the football to move the Titans up and down the field, but heading into his third full season as a starter much more is to be expected of the senior this fall.
“We’re expecting him to make a big jump this season,” Coal Ridge head coach Trorie Rickert said. “He’s going to be expected to do a lot more [for our offense] and we’re hoping to be able to throw the ball a lot more compared to last season. We have a lot of skill guys, so he’s going to have to throw the ball more and he’s even going to the run the ball a little bit more considering he’s gotten much bigger.”
Coming off of a trying season last year under center, Sargent wanted to make sure he was prepared for the rigors of the position, so he set out to add weight to his big frame to make sure he was prepared to take shots in the pocket and stay on the field to lead the Titans all season. Eating right and working out with his teammates all off-season has pushed him closer towards accomplishing that goal.
“I wanted to work on being able to stay in the pocket and take hits, because that’s where most of my balls were off,” Sargent said. “Obviously I can’t do that right now [during football workouts in shorts], but once camp rolls around I’ll be able to practice that much more. The goal was to put on more weight. When I first started as a sophomore I weighed about 155 pounds, but now I’m up to 210, so it’s going to make a difference for me this season.”
Along with working on staying in the pocket to take shots allowing him to complete more passes, Sargent really got down to business in learning how to read defenses at the line of scrimmage. One of the biggest components of a quarterback’s game, regardless of size, speed or arm strength, is the ability to decipher what a defense is looking to do against one’s offense. For most signal callers like Sargent, year three under center is where the biggest improvements most often happen. He certainly has the arm and the size for the position, but the last missing piece to the puzzle is the ability to read what’s happening in front of him.
If off-season workouts and 7-on-7 scrimmages against local teams like Aspen, Basalt, Glenwood Springs, Grand Valley and Roaring Fork are any indication, Sargent is well on his way to figuring that part of his game out.
“The biggest thing from him is making better reads,” Rickert said. “He’s throwing the ball much better and making the right read. That was a big thing last year, because he was just picking one guy [before the snap] and not looking elsewhere. But he’s making the right reads and throwing into the window’s that we want him to.”
“I have a lot more confidence throwing the ball now,” Sargent added. “My first two years [as a starter] I really had no clue and was just throwing the ball out there, but now I’m able to read the defense, know where the safeties are going and read what the linebackers are doing…I’m hoping to throw the ball a little bit more this year.”
That confidence gained this off-season should largely help the Titans become a well-balanced offensive attack, which should play directly into their overall improvement as a team in Year 2 under Rickert.
It’s important to remember that Sargent didn’t start playing quarterback until he got to high school, which is much different from your typical progression as a quarterback. Most often, those that become high school quarterbacks played the position all throughout peewee before reaching the high school ranks. With that said, Sargent’s lack of experience as a signal caller gave Rickert and his staff a blank slate to work with and mold from day one.
“He’s getting caught up [to the nuances of position],” Rickert said. “The biggest thing with him is technique. Not playing quarterback until high school was a big learning curve for him. It took me a couple of years to get his technique right, but he’s getting caught up in that area.”
With just eight seniors on the roster as of now, Sargent is expected to step forward as a leader not only in the huddle, but off the field as well. As a varsity letterman the last two years, that should be a manageable spot for him.
“I want to step up and be that leader that the guys look to,” Sargent said. “I’m expected to do that with the position I’m in, along with my experience on this team. There’s always going to be that pressure to step up. We all need to play as a family, obviously, but I need to be there to make sure that I can support everyone and make sure we’re playing as that family.”
Behind an improved Sargent and — hopefully — some good fortune with injuries as a team, Coal Ridge is primed for a playoff berth. How far they go will likely depend on a balanced offense, and that starts with the step forward taken by Sargent in the passing game.
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