The preseason at Fort Valley State has a familiar question to it: Whos the quarterback?
Former Peach County, Ohio State and Georgia Southern quarterback Antonio Henton finally got in uniform two years ago only to get injured and miss part of 2011.
He finished 2012 seventh in the SIAC in passing efficiency and first in yards (2,604) and touchdowns (20), helping the Wildcats to a division title and trip to the playoffs.
But fifth-year head coach Donald Pittman is back in search mode at the position. Adding to the concerns is the fact that the Wildcats are also basically starting over at wideout, a spot that has been fairly strong regardless of the quarterback. Inexperienced veteran Chris Broomfield is back, and freshmen Isaiah Spencer and Michael Eddy have joined the race.
A familiar face is in uniform again with the return of Eugene Smith. The Wildcats were 8-2 in 2010, mostly with Smith taking the snaps until a midseason knee injury.
But Smith was suspended days before the Pioneer Bowl that December after being arrested a week earlier in Reynolds on possession of less than an ounce of marijuana (a misdemeanor), a tail light violation, driving with a suspended license and possession of a controlled substance, human growth hormone.
He was held for an outstanding warrant issued the preceding August after an arrest for an expired tag and removing or concealing the identity of the vehicle because the plate didnt match the car. Marijuana debris was also found in the car, and a misdemeanor possession charge was added a few days later.
Pittman expressed disappointment and support at the time.
This is a young man I care for, and I intend to assist him whether hes at Fort Valley or somewhere else, Pittman said.
Smith went to Pensacola Junior College and also played minor league baseball, Pittman said. Now Smith is back at FVSU, and he is by far the most experienced quarterback in camp.
But that competition gets even more crowded with the addition of Cam Greathouse. The Shaw graduate was talked into giving the Wildcats a chance by former city rival and current FVSU defender DeRon Furr, who played at Carver-Columbus.
Greathouse, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, went 36-7 as a starter at Shaw.
He was throwing the ball in the summer, Pittman said. Hes a good athlete. Very strong arm. He knows the game very well.
Wildcats at a glance
Head coach: Donald Pittman (25-19, four seasons at Fort Valley State, overall).
2012 record: 8-4 (6-1 SIAC).
Key players on offense: OL Marquis Franklin (6-8, 330, Sr.); RB Seth Hill (5-11, 200, Jr.); OL Brandon Baker (6-6, 300, Jr.).
Key players on defense: DL Bernard Little (6-4, 290, Jr.); LB LeRon Furr (6-3, 235, Sr.); DB Thomas Wolfe (6-1, 185, Sr.).
Outlook: The merry-go-round at quarterback returned, and the Wildcats are completely replenishing the receiving corps.
But there is a decent nucleus of offensive linemen back to go with some quality running backs, led by Hill. Travis Richmond (Peach County) isnt on the team this season but is expected back in 2014. The Wildcats might be a little more prone to run this season because of a new quarterback (or two), and they were pretty good at it last season, ranking fifth in the SIAC with 133.7 yards a game.
There is much more good news on defense, where the Wildcats return a bunch of quality all over the place, including brothers LeRon and DeRon Furr, Bernard Little and Thomas Wolfe, among others. FVSU has a number of all-conference candidates and depth to go with it. Plus theres the memory of the Wildcats dropping down statistically a bit the past few seasons.
For the first time in a long time, special teams wont be a positive for FVSU, which is breaking in a new kicker and punter.
Opening up with Valdosta State rarely has gone well for the Wildcats, who will be major underdogs against the defending national champs. But after that, FVSU can make a serious run toward the postseason if the offense clicks early enough. The defense offers no such worries.
Sept. 7 Valdosta State, 2 p.m. (in Macon)
Sept. 14 Savannah State, 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Clark Atlanta, 3 p.m.
Sept 28 Benedict, 2 p.m. (in Augusta)
Oct. 5 Tuskegee, 6 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Kentucky State, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Washburn, 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 Concordia-Selma College, 2 p.m.
Nov. 2 Morehouse, 6 p.m.
Nov. 9 Albany State, 2 p.m. (in Columbus)