Scheible refuses to sit on past success

Saturday, April 11, 2009
Southeast quarterback Matt Scheible delivers a pass against Eastern Illinois during their game last season. (MICHAEL WILLIAMSON ~ Special to the Southeast Missourian)

Powell presents the biggest challenge to the starting QB spot.

At this time last year, Matt Scheible was a high school senior months away from beginning his college football career.

Now Scheible is solidly established as Southeast Missouri State's No. 1 quarterback as he goes through his first spring practice with the Redhawks.

"I was looking forward to it," Scheible said Friday following Southeast's second of 15 spring workouts allowed by the NCAA. "I'm excited."

Even without the benefit of spring practice last year, Scheible made a mark for the Redhawks during his freshman season.

First, Scheible battled his way up the depth chart in fall camp to become senior Houston Lillard's backup.

"Coming into camp, I was like fourth string," said Scheible, a former standout at Washington (Mo.) High School. "I just did what the coaches wanted and moved up."

Then Scheible made his mark during the season. Although Lillard received the bulk of the playing time in his final collegiate campaign, Scheible saw significant action and even started two games.

Scheible's passing numbers were not eye-popping as he completed 43.1 percent (44 of 102) for 540 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

The mobile Scheible made a big impact with his legs, rushing for 254 yards and two touchdowns while averaging a healthy four yards per attempt.

It was Scheible's calm under pressure that impressed Southeast coaches as much as anything.

In an upset of nationally ranked Tennessee State, Scheible took one snap -- and scored the winning touchdown on a 5-yard run in overtime.

Scheible had his best performance in the season finale, a victory at Austin Peay after Southeast trailed by 10 points with under six minutes remaining.

Scheible completed 12 of 24 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 73 yards on 17 attempts as he played the entire game. He directed a drive that resulted in the winning TD with 14 seconds left.

"Matt showed a lot of poise for a true freshman," Southeast coach Tony Samuel said. "The big thing about Matt, he came in [to fall camp] prepared.

"What he did over the summer [before his freshman year] was big. He's a real student of the game."

While Scheible is confident after last year's experience, he knows he has much to improve on and hopes to get that jump-started during spring workouts.

"I can always do better," he said. "Mainly just knowing the offense. Not having spring [practice] last year, coming into fall camp it was all new to me."

Scheible is the odds-on favorite to open the 2009 season at quarterback, but he doesn't take the position for granted.

That's primarily due to the presence of Dustin Powell, who entered fall camp last year as Lillard's backup before being beaten out by Scheible for the No. 2 position.

Powell hardly saw any action under center after transferring from Bakersfield (Calif.) Community College -- completing 1 of 2 passes for 7 yards -- but he's not about to relinquish without a fight the starting position.

"Matt's a good player, but I'm going to do everything I can to earn that spot," Powell said.

Powell still found a way to contribute last season as he became a regular on special teams, playing in nine games and making three tackles.

"I want to be on the field helping my team all I can," Powell said. "This year I want to be on the field helping at quarterback."

Said Samuel: "Dustin is just a great team player. He's got great leadership qualities and he's a student of the game, just like Matt."

That's why Samuel said Powell will have the opportunity to state his case for the quarterback position.

"It's never cut and dried," Samuel said. "They have to go out and compete. They know that."

Scheible is comfortable with that, especially since he and Powell are close.

"I don't take anything for granted. It [the starting spot] can be taken away," Scheible said. "We're good friends. This won't come between us."

With Scheible and Powell -- both strong students who have been honored as Southeast Scholar Athletes -- being the only two scholarship quarterbacks currently on campus, each will get plenty of work this spring.

"We'll get a good look at both of them," Samuel said.

Two freshman scholarship quarterbacks will join the mix in the fall, and Scheible isn't ruling out either of them earning playing time -- just the way he did in last year's fall camp.

"Just looking at their stats, they look pretty good," he said. "They'll be starting out just like I was."

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