Ivory now plays with coach's eye
Jacksonville St. QB wiser after injured season on the sidelines
JACKSONVILLE -- Senior Marques Ivory led the Jacksonville State football team into the third week of preseason camp. After an injury postponed his senior season, he is ready to get back under center and get the 2012 season started.
After a broken leg suffered late in the second quarter of the Gamecocks' 2011 season opener vs. UT Martin halted what was supposed to be his senior season less than one half in, Ivory started the path to recovery. A medical redshirt was granted, allowing him to take another go at his final season in 2012, one he and head coach Jack Crowe says he is on track for.
Forced to the sidelines after a junior season that saw him lead the Gamecocks over Ole Miss, into the playoffs and to as high as No. 2 in the national polls, Ivory saw the game through a different set of eyes in 2011. One season after throwing for 2,248 yards and 18 touchdowns, Ivory found himself on the sidelines and in the booth, watching the game through a coach's eyes. That experience is one he and Crowe hopes will not only benefit Ivory, but the Gamecocks in his second attempt at his senior campaign.
“All of the pieces are working,” Crowe said. “He's a better quarterback now than he's ever been. I think he gained enormously from sitting with the play caller last year. He is going to be a football coach, and he's like a coach right now. I'm just really glad that we've got him, and I wouldn't want anybody else. I think it will only be in retrospect that we will know how [sitting out last year] benefitted him, but the opportunity is enormous.”
“The biggest thing was learning to work at a faster tempo,” Ivory said of his experience in 2011. “It helps our coaches a lot if we can go ahead, get lined up and get ready. It allows him to make calls, to get personnel in and to be prepared faster.”
Ivory's progress isn't limited to the mental side. He feels good after almost a year of healing and rehab, and his strides have not gone unnoticed by Crowe.
“Physically, I think he is right on it,” Crowe added. “There aren't many throwers as good as him anywhere, and mentally there aren't many equal to him either. And he can move, and its deceptive sometimes. When you see a guy that's 230 pounds and a 450-pound bencher, you think you are looking at an offensive guard, but he can stick his foot in the ground and is deceptive that way.”
A year away from taking snaps and leading his offense down the field has taken its toll on Ivory, a fifth-year senior, and he is still trying to get all of the kinks out before his Gamecocks kick off the season on Sept. 1 at Arkansas. However, with a healthy leg under him now, he feels confident he and the Gamecocks will be ready to go next week.
“I'm still getting back into the groove. I think I'm almost there, almost back and ready,” Ivory said. “Being off for a year has been kind of tough, but I'm working hard trying to get there. My leg feels fine. I haven't had any problems out of it for probably five or six months now, so it feels good.”
He will be in charge of an offense that returns five starters on the offensive line in front of him, as well as preseason All-America running back Washaun Ealey behind him. On the outside, three of the top five receivers from last season are back, including Alan Bonner, a senior that led the Gamecocks with 33 catches for 582 yards. Add junior quarterback Coty Blanchard, who stepped in after Ivory's injury to lead the Gamecocks to a share of the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference title, and Ivory and the Gamecocks like what they are capable of on offense this season.