Austin’s depth chart had a glaring vacancy when it entered the 2018 season. Quarterback Paxton Montgomery won 22 games in two seasons as the Black Bears’ signal caller, but he graduated in the spring.
Coach Jeremy Perkins returned senior backup Kulyn Hubbard, who saw snaps in many of Austin’s blowout wins. Hubbard spent two years learning the offense.
He was a strong candidate for starting quarterback, but it wouldn’t come without competition. Sophomore Quincy Crittendon lit up freshman football, averaging nearly three touchdowns a game. He started at quarterback for every team he played for since he was in fifth grade. He wanted an opportunity.
Perkins eventually chose Hubbard, but the competition brought out the best in both of Austin’s quarterbacks.
“It pushed Kulyn to make sure he stayed ahead and stayed the starter,” Perkins said. “In turn, Kulyn sees and appreciates the ability that Quincy has and is trying to help him along.”
While Hubbard remains the starter, Perkins is now using Crittendon and Hubbard in tandem to take advantage of their skills. So far this season, Hubbard has started all four games for Austin, but Crittendon has seen meaningful snaps in the last three games.
Hubbard has completed 42 of his 69 attempts for 667 yards and six touchdowns. Three weeks ago, he threw for 308 yards on 10 completions in Austin’s 60-45 win over Decatur.
Most of Crittendon’s production has come on the ground, gaining 118 yards rushing this season, but he did have a 26-yard touchdown pass against Decatur. Both players will most likely see the field tonight when Austin (3-1, 2-0) takes on Grissom.
Austin does not have a quarterback controversy, but rather a quarterback partnership.
“Quincy cheers for Kulyn, and Kulyn cheers for Quincy,” Perkins said. “When one or the other is doing good, it doesn’t matter who is in there because Austin is doing good. Both are team guys and want this team to do well.”
Hubbard’s experience has been valuable so far. For a team with multiple sophomores in the starting lineup, having a senior at quarterback provides a big veteran presence for the young offense. He was voted a permanent captain by his teammates.
He waited his turn, soaking in knowledge from Montgomery. Now, he and Crittendon share tips to help each other become better quarterbacks.
“He’s been a tremendous help for real,” Crittendon said. “I will be on the sidelines asking him something. He will also tell me what his mistakes were so I can correct myself,” and avoid the same mistakes.
Hubbard’s leadership is matched by an ability to throw the ball downfield. He learned to be a strong leader by watching Montgomery for two seasons.
That is something he wants to pass down to Crittendon.
“I’ve been trying to show him how to command an offense,” Hubbard said. “You have to take control. You have to be loud and vocal. You have to mature fast when you get out there.”
Crittendon’s role in the offense has mostly been to operate an effective read option play out of multiple packages. Before this year, he was never really a runner. He feels his main strength is his arm. Perkins said Crittendon’s knowledge of the quarterback position is advanced for a sophomore.
Crittendon’s first varsity play was a run of 20-plus yards against Decatur. He didn't play in the first game against Hartselle, so he didn't know if he would see the field against the Red Raiders.
Perkins saw a situation where he felt Crittendon could make plays and gave him the opportunity.
“I’ve just been paying attention and learning the offense," Crittendon said. "So if he needs to call my number, I can be ready. When he finally did, I did not know it was coming. I just went out there and gave it my all.”
That is how Perkins has been handling the two quarterbacks this year. It is not game by game or series by series. It is play by play and deals with situations.
“We feel like we need to attack people in certain ways,” Perkins said. “Whoever we have to utilize to do it, we’re going to do it. If it’s switching quarterbacks then it's switching quarterbacks.”
Both bring different skill sets to the table. Crittendon is a little more athletic and is currently specializing in run option plays, but can also throw the ball effectively. Perkins said getting Crittendon experience was important in case an injury occurs.
Hubbard knows the offense and knows how to make it run smoothly. He can also hurt teams with his downfield throws. He is third in the Decatur area in passing yards.
Having two game-ready quarterbacks taking snaps keeps opponents on their heels.
“It’s almost like two offenses really,” Hubbard said. “You get the run option then you can come out and throw the ball. It’s like the defense has to plan for two different offenses.”