By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Quan Malveaux may be the smallest guy on the field for the Stillwater High School football team — standing 5 feet, 6 inches if he really stretches himself out.
But while he may lack the size of a prototypical running back, there is little doubt who has had the biggest impact for the Pioneers this spring.
“We’re very excited about him,” Stillwater offensive coordinator Paul Hix said. “We knew he was very talented. He shocked us from Day 1. He got right out there and stepped in like he’d been doing it for a long time. He really hasn’t made any assignment busts. He’s been fabulous in pass protection — he’s knocking around 200-pound linebackers and I’ll bet he doesn’t weigh 130 pounds. He’s not scared and that’s what we really like about him. He just jumped right in there and took command of it like (the position) has always been his.”
Malveaux is just one of a plethora of young backs hoping to be the answer to the proverbial spring long question of who would fill graduated senior Davyn Thompson’s shoes when the Pioneers take the field next fall. And so far he looks the part.
“We’ve been really impressed with Quan, our sophomore to be,” Hix said. “He’s really an ideal inside zone back, which is kind of the identity of our team. We were playing around with tweaking things to fit Ty (Smith), but really Quan fits our identity or at least my experience with the inside zone.”
Malveaux won’t be the only one in the backfield, however. Players like soon-to-be junior Ty Smith — who has sat out most of the spring with an injury — could have just as big of an impact next fall.
“It’s really exciting,” said Smith, who the coaches have deemed to be the odds-on favorite to be the starter next season. “We have a lot of potential to be a good football team in the upcoming years.”
Playing running back at Stillwater High is about as high profile as it comes. Some of the recent stars read like a list of whose who in Pioneer football lore with guys like Jesse Vester, Thompson, Andrew Minter and Davion Carter.
Now it’s time for a new platoon to step up and fill those ever-so-large shoes — even in the Pioneers’ pass-happy offense.
“It’s tough because we don’t have as much experience as they did,” Smith said. “They were older and we have a lot of young guys.”
“I think if there’s any pressure its on (the coaching staff) to find a way to utilize what we’ve got,” Hix said. “I don’t really think the tailbacks have felt any pressure. I think they’re too young to even know what’s going on. If there’s any pressure, it’s been on the staff to identify what it is that we have and what we’ve got to do to utilize it.”
The Pioneers may be young at the tailback position, with only Smith seeing any varsity time last season, but don’t be fooled. Hix said this bunch is just as explosive, if not more explosive than past groups.
“They definitely are flying under the radar a little bit,” Hix said. “Right now our best football play is to give it to Quan and let him sort through stuff because we’re struggling a little bit at all the other spots. He’s probably been the most solid spot that we’ve had, which we certainly weren’t expecting and have been very pleasantly surprised with.”
With Malveaux’s ability shift and gain those tough yards on the inside zone and Smith’s ability to burn past opponents on the outside, it seems like Hix has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal. The only problem? Getting both players enough touches and figuring out who will start and which gameplan to go with.
“It just depends on (Smith’s) recovery,” Hix said. “He’s only going to add to us offensively. The things that Quan does and does well are totally different than what Ty does. Ty adds that pure speed element that we’re missing right now, but Quan is a great changeup. He’s kind of like having that relief pitcher that’s totally different from the starter.”
Malveaux may be a changeup, but Hix also has another curveball in his arsenal. According to Hix, the Pioneers will also implement the Wildcat formation again this season by utilizing King Williams and Cameron Mayberry in the backfield when given the opportunity. As for the specifics, Hix wouldn’t go into much detail but rather gave a wry smile.
“Oh yeah, we’ve got big Wildcat plans,” Hix said with a grin. “We’ve got multiple quarterback uses for our Wildcat and we’re excited about it. We’re just not going to break it out yet.”