Panthers’ new quarterback was born to run the Slot-T
By SEAN SHAPIRO
For five years Garrett Wright has practiced, and mastered, the art of the Slot-T.
And the Slot-T isn’t a paint-by-number charade.
It’s a behemoth of a system for a quarterback. One that breaks the rules of today’s contemporary offense — what spread? — and forces the quarterback to blend different elements at a moment’s notice.
On one play, Wright is like Georges Seurat. On the next, he’s Pablo Picasso in the backfield.
It’s a hot day, the thermometer is pushing 102 degrees, and Wright is lined up under center during Liberty Hill’s intrasquad scrimmage.
Scanning the defense, Wright fakes to fullback Jon Shannon, moves to his right and pitches to Freddie White. By the time the defense has realized White, not Shannon or Wright, is holding the ball it’s too late and the tailback is headed toward the end zone.
It’s reminiscent of Seurat’s famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte. A pointillist painting that Seurat spent over two years on, meticulously creating a seemingly straight-forward image with millions of tiny dots.
But, there is more than meets the eye, and like Liberty Hill’s offense, it leaves viewers — or opposing defenses — confused and captivated at the same time.
On the next series, Wright must do his best Picasso impression.
A block has broken down and he is locked into the defender’s crosshairs. But he escapes, quickly shifting to his left, pivots, and then scrambles for a long gain.
Free-form painting meets the gridiron, and Wright is holding the brush.
He’s been waiting for his chance, and if Wright is the young artist, Liberty Hill head coach Jerry Vance is the approving grand master of the Slot-T.
“If there was ever a system that fit a player it’s this one with Garrett,” Vance said. “He hides the ball so well. He’s not the most athletic quarterback, but he can simply make the ball disappear.”
It’s a result of consistency and dedication for Wright.
At a young age, quarterbacks in Liberty Hill are taught that footballs aren’t meant to fly. They’re meant to be protected and pushed down the field in a methodical, deceptive manner.
“Here quarterback is more of a leadership position,” Wright said. “We don’t need to throw the ball. We’ve won state championships without throwing the ball.”
Somewhere Darrell K. Royal and Woody Hayes — both given credit for the adage “three things can happened when you throw the ball, and two of them are bad,” — are smiling on Liberty Hill.
Wright, like past quarterbacks at Liberty Hill, started learning the system in middle school. And it even extends to the youth ranks, where the Liberty Hill Youth Football program runs a Slot-A — a modified version of the Slot-T for eight-man football.
“We know this offense like the back of our hand,” Wright said. “That’s the expectation here.”
And that leads to other lofty expectations.
At Liberty Hill, anything short of a state championship is considered a down year.
By that standard, Liberty Hill is in the midst of an eight-year slump — frankly, a slump other teams would love to be in — and Wright wants to help end that streak in 2015.
“We should be playing in the final game of the year,” Wright said. “We want to win here.”
He has the supporting cast to do it.
Shannon is arguably the state’s top fullback — he’s almost a mislabeled running back who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds — while Caleb Guerin and White give Wright a bevy of options.
There’s also heavy protection on the offensive line from Justin Wilson, Jack Brewer, and Lance Champion — giving Liberty Hill’s artistic offense, and it’s quarterback, ample time to build a masterpiece.