Photo by Brian Paglia
Stockbridge quarterback Leon Prunty has been garnering interest from Georgia Southern, South Florida and Gardner-Webb as he heads into his senior season.
By Darryl Maxie
On his watch, Stockbridge became a state playoff team for the first time ever. On his stopwatch, he's faster than he's ever been.
Still, by Leon Prunty's calculation, there's at least 2,000 yards between the 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior and his goal of impressing a college that needs an intelligent quarterback.
He figures 2,000 -- that's 1,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing -- will turn heads. And all the better if those heads are attached to coaches' bodies at Tennessee or Clemson.
"I went to both their camps and at Tennessee I was one of the best three quarterbacks and at Clemson I was one of the best," Prunty said Monday. "I don't know if they need a quarterback or not."
Whoever gets him will have a faster Leon Prunty, he vows. His 40-yard dash time has gone from 5 seconds flat to 4.8. He says he'll get rid of the ball quicker, make the right decisions quicker. Because he must.
"At every level up, the game gets quicker," Stockbridge coach Kevin Whitley said. "The longer you hold the ball, the better the chance it's going to get intercepted."
So that, among other things, will guide how Whitley tries to prepare Prunty for the next level.
Prunty rushed for 800 yards as a junior, while passing for 600 in a year that ended with consecutive losses to Sandy Creek, the eventual Class AAA champion, and Peach County, a semifinalist.
Both he and Whitley acknowledge that Stockbridge's triple-option offense has hurt Prunty's numbers, possibly keeping him from being a 1,000-yard passer already. Whitley bluntly says Prunty is "not an option quarterback."
But the triple-option gives the Tigers the opportunity to put more quality athletes on the field, so that's what they run.
"It hurts him a little bit," Whitley said, "but he's a good enough athlete that he can adjust."
Mentally, Prunty has adjusted already. It will take more than a statistical bump to get where he wants to go, he said.
"I go to some schools and I'm not even on the radar," Prunty said. "I believe I'm very underrated. ... I feel like I have to have a big year for any school to notice me."
Some schools have already noticed him. South Florida has taken an interest, as have Georgia Southern, Gardner-Webb and Middle Tennessee State. Louisville at one time was among his suitors, although he's not sure the Cardinals are as interested, now that Will
Gardner, a 6-5 quarterback from Coffee High in south Georgia, has committed.
Savannah State, where Prunty's mother went to school, has offered the QB, Whitley said.
But Prunty remains focused on what he must do to get better. He has a willing helper in Whitley, who has overseen the Tigers' transformation from a 2-8 squad in 2009 to one that went 6-5 in his second season. Prunty hopes Whitley can do for his fortunes individually what he's done for the Tigers' fortunes corporately.
"He doesn't let up, he stays on me," Prunty said. "There's always something going wrong, even if something good happens on a play. That keeps me motivated."
Whitley hasn't just coached Prunty on the intricacies of the triple-option offense. He's given him tips on how to sell himself to potential recruiters, the business he needs to take care of off the field and the kind of hands-on effort it will take to make it happen.
Whitley commands Prunty's respect, because if nothing else Prunty is well aware that Whitley has helped another high school quarterback make the transition to Tennessee, even though that QB changed positions once he became a Vol. Anyone remember Eric Berry, formerly of Whitley's Creekside team?
"I don't want (Prunty) to be limited on the next level," Whitley said. "I didn't do some of the things with Eric Berry that I'm doing with Leon because I knew (Berry) wouldn't play the (quarterback) position in college. ... When you've got a guy you know is going to play the position in college, he's got to know what the cover-two means, about zone blitzes and fronts."
Prunty is learning those things and can do "a lot of stuff that option quarterbacks don't do on this level," Whitley said. "I think there are going to be a lot of schools that will want to see the video of him after the first couple of games. He really has put himself in a position to be noticed because they really hit the road this summer."