Rico Dowdle has shaken all the dust and cobwebs off his throwing arm.
The rising senior from Reynolds is cultivating a relationship with his center and familiarizing himself with audibles and snap counts.
Dowdle has played quarterback before – three years total, counting middle school and youth league.
But the former All-WNC running back’s position change is one of the biggest preseason storylines in Western North Carolina football.
“I still have a lot of work to do, but overall it’s been going good,” Dowdle said.
“I’m happy about becoming a quarterback again. It opens up our offense and makes it very deadly when A.J. (Logan) and I can be on the field at the same time. And I’m someone who likes to have my hands on the ball.”
Dowdle was named the 2014 Mountain Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year despite suiting up in just nine games for the Rockets (7-6).
He rushed for 1,309 yards and 17 touchdowns, while making 23 receptions for 305 yards and seven touchdowns. Dowdle scored five times in a 38-32 win at Erwin in the first round of the NCHSAA 3-AA playoffs.
Wake Forest, Boston College, Appalachian State and Charlotte have offered scholarships to the 6-foot, 196-pound back. And Reynolds coach Shane Laws accompanied Dowdle on a recent unofficial visit to Notre Dame.
Above all, Laws wanted to do what was best for his football team. But there was some apprehension about how a move to quarterback would affect Dowdle’s college opportunities.
“When we started to go in this direction with Rico, I wanted to see what (the college coaches) thought and the response was the direct opposite of what I expected,” Laws said.
“They encouraged it. They feel like it gives Rico the chance to show he’s a whole lot more than just a running back. And for us, we’re a lot better when teams have to find a way to stop A.J. and Rico, not just one of them.”
Laws and his staff were one of the first in WNC to adopt a spread formation offense, and it paid off handsomely with Buncombe County’s last NCHSAA football championship (4-A in 2009). Most of the school passing records have been broken the past two seasons by Levi Ledford (2013) and Tevin Stafford (2014).
Expect the Rockets to be a little more run-oriented with Dowdle and Logan in the same backfield. Logan, who is also a rising senior, ran for 806 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. He also made 20 receptions for 260 yards and a touchdown to garner All-MAC recognition.
North Carolina A&T became the first Division I college to offer Logan a scholarship in May.
Reynolds’ season opener is Aug. 21 at home against West Forsyth.
“We’re looking pretty good,” Dowdle said.
“I’d say the defense is in really good shape. They’re probably the strength of this team and the offense is coming along. We’re all just ready to play.”