“I never really thought I’d play quarterback,” Uzee said. “I never got the shot in the eighth grade.”
Times have certainly changed for Uzee, who will lead the Buccaneers (6-0,
6-0) into a Region 5AAAAA game against visiting Villa Rica (3-3, 3-3) tonight.
Although he primarily played defense in middle school, Uzee’s speed and decision-making made him a strong candidate to sparingly sit under center from time to time, just to give opponents a different offensive set.
“I was like a scat back,” Uzee said. “I never passed the ball. I was behind center, and I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t get to throw the ball.”
When Uzee moved to Allatoona and joined its junior varsity team, his middle school teammates volunteered him to play quarterback.
“My first year at Allatoona, some of the position coaches asked if any of us had played quarterback,” Uzee said. “Some of the kids told them that I did, so that’s how I stayed involved.”
Uzee remained on the defense his first two years, but, he also spent part of his practice and film time with the quarterbacks learning the position.
Once he realized that there wasn’t any room for him as part of the quarterback corp, Uzee focused on defense.
Undaunted, Uzee believed he saw his final opening to the position entering his junior season.
“I knew it was my last time to go back and try quarterback,” he said. “The previous guy had left, so the position was really up for grabs, and it was all about the competition. I knew this was my shot.”
Uzee worked hard during spring and summer practices and offseason workouts. He ultimately won the job after the final scrimmage and entered the 2011 campaign as the Bucs’ starting quarterback.
“It was a desperation move, really,” Allatoona coach Gary Varner said. “He played (quarterback) a little bit as a freshman and sophomore on junior varsity. We moved him around a lot as a defensive back. But the landscape changed here and he wanted to compete for the quarterback job as a junior.
“We didn’t know who would start, but he won the job. He knows the game and has gotten better each year.”
With the help of his position coach, Barry Cox, Uzee worked on his mechanics and footwork throughout the year and finished the 2011 season with 1,202 yards, completing 87 of 143 passes for 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Uzee, who is 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, also had the benefit of handing the ball off to 2,142-yard running back Miles Jones.
“Last year, if we needed to, we’d pass it,” Uzee said. “But, we handed the ball off a lot and I just managed the game. That’s the style of offense we run. Passing is not the first option. We throw the ball when we need to.”
“His brain and understanding of things is what helped him,” Varner said. “He picked up on what we do during the offseason and had a good grasp of the offense. I had confidence in him that he’d take care of the little things.
“All of that has carried over into this season. He’s performing well. He’s made it easier for us to move forward given what we lost from last year. He has good arm strength, a quick release, good decision-making, and he’s faster than what people think.”
Uzee has enjoyed the way he’s grown better into his role. Through six games this season, he’s completed 47 of 72 passes for 868 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions.
“Me and the receivers have had time to bond,” Uzee said. “And I feel like I know the game better. My first game as a starting quarterback was the first game I played (for Allatoona) last year. Now, I know coverages more and the game is slowing down for me.”
Considering where Uzee started, Varner is very happy with how the Buccaneers are progressing under Uzee.
“There is a lot of football left,” he said. “But, he enables us to be a lot more balanced and diverse. We can throw the ball when we want to and even when we don’t have to.”