GERMANTOWN, Md. - Junior quarterback Ike Whitaker of Germantown Northwest has established himself as one of the one of the top quarterbacks in the Washington D.C. area.
But throughout most of the first half last Friday night against Germantown Seneca Valley, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback played like an average Joe.
That was until he came to the rescue in the second half with a performance that showed why he'll be one of the top quarterback prospects in the Atlantic East Region in the Class of 2005.
In the first half, Whitaker threw three interceptions and looked frustrated as Northwest fell behind its cross-town rival, Seneca Valley. Whitaker was flustered and threw several bad passes, and he exhibited poor form with throwing motion.
Northwest coach Randy Trivers must have said something at half time, because Whitaker was like a totally different man in the second half.
Whitaker came out throwing bullets and was able to run over, through and around defenders with his silky smooth running style. He was deadly on quarterback bootlegs, quarterback draws and especially on the option.
It was like Trivers decided to unleash his top dog and when the dog was loose, he couldn't be stopped.
"We started to use all of our game plan," Whitaker said. "We were trying a lot of different things and we finally started to find something that worked."
That something was Whitaker.
Whitaker, a junior that already has a scholarship offer from Virginia Tech and more sure to come, put the game away with 6 minutes, 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Leading by only three points, Whitaker rolled to his left on a fourth-and-eight play from the Seneca Valley 17-yard line.
As Whitaker was rolling to his opposite shoulder, he was pressured by two defenders and it looked like he might go down for the sack. But Whitaker turned his front shoulder to the right slightly, got his arm up in perfect throwing position and nailed a wide open receiver near the 1-yard line. The receiver made a quick moved and easily got into the end zone, giving Northwest a lead that it would never let go.
"That's just an example of the big-play ability that Ike has," Trivers said. "He always seems to make the big plays when we need them. That was an incredible play."
"I knew that we needed something," he said. "I probably could have run it for the first down, but I saw the receiver open and knew we needed to end the game on that play."
When Whitaker went back to the basics, got his arm in proper throwing position, he was good enough to be a four-star quarterback candidate. However, he did have a tendency to short arm his throws and rely only on his athletic ability. But it's that athletic ability that makes him a hot target for 2005.
He has an amazing frame and the ability to do things that can't be coached. When he's running the ball and utilizing his run-pass ability he's in his domain. He had very good pocket presence and didn't rush his reads when he was under pressure.
In the end, believe the hype.
Whitaker has a chance to be one of the nation's top quarterback prospects in the Class of 2005. College coaches will have to take the good with the bad, and even though he did throw three interceptions in the first half last Friday night, he didn't fail in the end and should flourish in a system that utilizes dual-threat quarterbacks.
MARYLAND OL ALSO ONE TO WATCH Whitaker wasn't the only junior Division I prospect on the field. Seneca Valley offensive lineman Jon Walko, who is 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, also looked impressive in spurts last Friday night.
The first thing that jumps out about Walko is his size. A 6-5, 260-pound frame is something you can't coach and that's going to be something that jumps out to the Division I scouts right away. With a size 34-inch waist and a lean frame, Walko has room to add even more muscle mass when he gets to the next level.
When Walko was able to lock on with a defender it was over. He would use his massive size to get on a defensive lineman and could push him around with brute strength alone.
But when it came to a quicker defender, Walko was able to often get beat on a speed rush. The kid across from him wasn't always bigger, but with a quick first step the defender was often easily able to get past him and into the backfield.
That wasn't an every-down occurrence, though, and it's something that can be improved with footwork and speed drills over the summer and into his first year as a college football player.
In the end, Walko has the potential to be a very solid three-star recruit for 2005. He has a lot to work with and his body is something that automatically gives him an advantage.