MIAMI — There could be an interesting battle for the starting quarterback job at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M.
Six players are in the running — Jack Diamond, Tanner Griffin, Alec Meinert, Matt Bray, T.J. Smith-Rhodes and Hayden Moss of Commerce.
“We’ve got an all-state quarterback, we’ve got a kid that’s won three state championships, we’ve got a kid that has won games already at the collegiate level,” said Norse offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Andrew Rice. “You put all those guys in a room and it really forces them to challenge one another and forced them to challenge themselves.”
Diamond (6-2, 205) and Griffin (6-0, 210), both redshirt sophomores, likely have the upper hand since both participated in spring drills.
Griffin led Bixby to three straight Class 6A II state championships. He passed for 9,399 yards and 102 touchdowns as a Spartan.
He originally had signed with Oklahoma State to play baseball.
Diamond, from Shawnee, took a redshirt year to play behind Guy Myers and Clayton Sims.
Myers and Sims combined for 2,599 yards and 19 touchdowns.
“Jack Diamond and Tanner Griffin both went through the spring, so mentally they are pretty far advanced with grasping the offense and how we operate,” Rice said. “We’re really pleased with the skill-set of the guys that came in.”
Smith-Rhodes, a redshirt freshman who prepped at Dallas Madison, originally signed with Southwest Junior College Football Conference rival Blinn College.
Former Norse defensive back Devodric Bynum tipped NEO coaches off to Smith-Rhodes.
“He’s a big, strong-armed kid that has all the talent who just has to put it all together in the framework of the offense,” Rice said.
Rice calls Meinert, a 6-3, 205-pounder from Hobart, “a diamond in the rough.”
“He is a big strong kid who has gotten his body right for a freshman coming in,” Rice said. “He’s a diamond in the rough we found out there that has a really strong arm. He ran very different offense in high school so he’s trying to grab what we are doing, but as far as the skill-set, size and the work ethic, that all could make him very successful here.
“We’re really excited to go get him because a lot of other schools had him on their radar.”
Moss (6-0, 165) threw for 1,557 yards and 14 touchdowns for Commerce as a senior. He added 203 yards rushing with five TDs.
“We’re pretty fortunate with the recruiting and the development of guys,” said Rice, who enters his second season as NEO offensive coordinator. “We feel we’ve done a good job with that. They all are making strides. It’s just how they fast they can do that, how fast they can get up to speed with the guys who were here this spring.”