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SEMO QB Lillard Isn't Taking Starting Job for Granted
Houston Lillard has firmly established himself as Southeast Missouri State’s starting quarterback.
Barring something unforeseen, Lillard will begin his senior season behind center when the Redhawks open the 2008 campaign Aug. 28 against Division II Southwest Baptist.
But Lillard, who radiates confidence, professes to never take anything for granted.
As the Redhawks prepared for their first official practice of fall camp today, Lillard said he will be intent on proving himself during every workout as he tries to solidify his spot as the leader of Southeast’s offense.
“I never feel like the pressure is off, where I don’t have to prove myself,” Lillard said Monday during Southeast’s media day at Houck Stadium. “Anybody can take my job at any time.”
If that were to happen, the most likely candidates appear to be returning sophomore Steve Callanan and junior college transfer Dustin Powell.
But based on the season Lillard had last year, and the raves he draws from Southeast coach Tony Samuel, it’s obvious that either Callanan or Powell have their work cut out if they plan to wrest the No. 1 position from Lillard.
Despite splitting time early last year with Victor Anderson — who was moved to safety midway through the season — and battling injuries, Lillard turned in an impressive campaign.
Even though he started only six games, Lillard completed 57.8 percent of his passes (100 of 173) for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns, with six interceptions.
Lillard, listed at 6-feet and 210 pounds, finished third in the Ohio Valley Conference in passing efficiency and first in yards per completion.
“Houston played well when he was healthy,” Samuel said. “He’s really worked hard in the offseason. The leadership he brings, he’s able to check off. … he’s a coach on the field.”
Lillard has had a lot of exposure to Southeast’s current system. He transferred to Southeast from junior college in 2006 but missed the entire season with an injury.
Lillard said he was able to gain plenty of knowledge while attending practices despite not being able to participate after undergoing knee surgery.
Noting that Lillard has actually been around Southeast nearly as long as third-year coach Samuel and his staff, offensive coordinator Vincent White promises that the Redhawks are “going to open [the offense] up a little bit more.”
Despite having what seems like a lock on the starting job, Lillard said the talents of Callanan and Powell cannot be discounted.
“It’s a nice group of quarterbacks, and we get along real good. We spend time off the field,” Lillard said. “There are no grudges, no bad blood.”
Callanan and Powell said they realize that Lillard is a clear No. 1 on the depth chart entering fall camp, but they’ll push him as much as they can and be ready in case anything happens.
Callanan played some last year as a redshirt freshman, completing 16 of 35 passes for 136 yards. He was Lillard’s backup during the second half of the season after Anderson moved over to defense.
“I respect Houston, and he should be able to do the job,” said Callanan, a 6-foot, 200-pound native of St. Louis who attended Vianney High School. “I just want to be prepared just in case.”
Powell, a 6-2, 215-pound transfer from Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College, feels the same way.
“I know he’s first on the depth chart, but me and Steve will push him,” said Powell, who came to Southeast in January and participated in spring drills. “Injuries can happen at any time. You have to be ready.
“I’m definitely going to do everything I can to push him, to fight for the job.”
Southeast also has an incoming freshman scholarship quarterback in Matt Scheible from Washington, Mo.
“They all have to be ready,” Samuel said.
Especially if they want to take away some of Lillard’s playing time.
Lillard is not taking starting job for granted
By Marty Mishow, The Southeast Missourian
Photo Credit: Aaron Eisenhauer/The Southeast Missourian