Arlington Colts have high hopes for offense under new QB

Posted Monday, Sep. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Instead of opening the season on Zero Week like many area high schools, Arlington High gets going Friday against Flower Mound Marcus.

As long as Colts quarterback Michael Gray has waited for this moment, an extra week doesn’t seem like much. The 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior spent the past two seasons as a slot receiver and backup quarterback.

But now it’s his time to put his dual-threat skills to use for a high-octane Colts offense that returns almost all of the skill players from a squad that reached the third round of the Class 5A Division II playoffs in 2012.

“Quarterback is second nature to him,” coach Scott Peach said. “That’s what he’s used to.”

Junior defensive tackle Curtis Foley can appreciate the quarterback skills Gray brings to an offense. Foley said the stingy Arlington defense is glad it doesn’t have to contend with Gray’s passing ability outside of practice.

“He’s got a cannon,” Foley said.

Peach used the same word to describe Gray’s strength. But a cannon has to be able to hit its target. The coach said Gray has steadily improved his accuracy throughout the spring and in recent preseason practices.

Peach practically salivates at the big-play potential of Gray throwing across and down the field to the Colts’ group of speedy, albeit undersized, wide receivers.

Tiring out defenses

“That big arm is really a lot of fun as a play-caller,” Peach said. “He’s a great piece to have for us right now as a QB.”

Gray and 6-foot-1 receiver Isaiah Baker — by far the tallest wideout on the team —offered a preview of the offense’s big-play potential on the first play of an August scrimmage against South Grand Prairie. Gray threw deep to Baker, who caught the ball in stride at the goal line.

But that play itself isn’t what fired up Gray the most. “Every receiver had a good catch that night,” he said. “I’m excited.”

Paired with Gray’s arm strength is his ability to gain yards on the ground. Cade Olson, a senior wide receiver who split time with Gray in the slot last season, compares to Gray to Tim Tebow, the former University of Florida quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy with his combination of big-play passes and zone-read runs.

“Mike will run over you,” Olson said.

Gray is willing to run over defenders, but ultimately he wants the offense to run past a winded defense. That is, the Arlington offense centers on using its fast tempo and high speed to wear out opponents and then create explosive plays.

“If we can blow the top off, we’re going to blow the top off,” Gray said. “We’ve got a lot of speed at receiver [and] we’ll be hitting some big plays.

“We’re trying to wear the defense down for that big play.”

Natural position

Quarterback was always the ideal position for Gray. Peach long ago identified Gray as a great signal-caller for the Colts offense. But more experienced seniors have won the starting job the past two seasons.

Peach knew Gray was a good enough athlete to help the team at wide receiver. Peach expects his players to help the Colts win even it requires them to play a position they never imagined lining up at.

“Ultimately, you’ve got to fit the kid into what’s best for the football team,” Peach said. “We always put Arlington High School football first and the kids secondary to that as far as what they want. But if we can find a match, that obviously helps.”

Now Gray is back at his natural position. But not every aspect of the position comes naturally to the soft-spoken signal-caller. Peach in the early part of the off-season challenged Gray to share his knowledge of the Arlington offense. He made the senior talk about the concepts out loud.

“Michael Gray is very quiet, so you don’t ever know what he’s thinking,” Peach said. “But when I started making him talk to me about the concepts, he knew everything and I knew in that moment he was going to be just fine. If you’re an intelligent kid in our system, then you’ve got the first step toward being a good quarterback. So I knew in February, after those first couple of meetings, he was going to be the guy.”

He’s definitely the guy now. Olson said Gray has his teammates’ respect in the huddle. He doesn’t speak up often, but when he talks, teammates listen.

“He’ll let you know you did something wrong and you need to fix it, or if you did something good, he’ll tell you, ‘Good job. Keep doing that,’” Olson said.

If Arlington’s offense meets its potential, there should be plenty of praise coming from — and being directed to —the Colts quarterback.

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