NEW ORLEANS - In Louisiana, it's not uncommon to see the best player on a high school team lined up at quarterback, even if it's not his natural position. With the ball in his hands during every snap, the quarterback can make things happen and fire off big plays.
But after watching him scrimmage Thursday night against Amite (Amite City, La.) High School, it's hard to imagine Edna Karr (New Orleans) High School receiver Speedy Noil making more plays at quarterback than wide receiver. The Cougars' talented junior played quarterback for Karr last fall, but he spent his night exclusively at wideout against Amite.
The results were devastating. He outran the coverage for touchdowns on post routes. He jumped over the coverage (sometimes double coverage, at that) for touchdowns on fade routes. At one point in the scrimmage, Noil caught a bubble screen in traffic, bulldozed an Amite linebacker, then outran nine other defenders to the sideline for big yards.
"Speedy is the best receiver in the state, so we're trying to see if we can find opportunities for him to go out there and play a little one-on-one," said Karr coach Jabbar Juluke. "Hopefully somebody will cover him one-on-one, but they're probably going to double team him."
When asked where he intended to use Noil this season, Juluke could only smile. The big question, he said, is whether he can depend on backup quarterback Kerry Taylor to lead the Cougars' offense.
Taylor looked shaky at times, especially when pressured, but was able to find most of his targets -- particularly Noil.
"We want to see what out backup quarterback can do," Juluke said. "We hope [to keep Noil at receiver], but Speedy is dynamic with the ball in his hands."
Noil said he has no preference where he lines up in 2012, as long as it helps the Cougars win. But he said he expects to see the majority of his playing time at quarterback, simply for his experience.
"We'll have to see what happens during the season and during practice," Noil said. "I'm trying to get the quarterbacks prepared and teaching them -- getting them ready for the season."
Regardless of where he plays, it's readily apparent why the 5-foot-10 Noil is one of the early contenders for best receiver in this 2014 class and why he holds offers from Ohio State, LSU, Alabama, Florida and Florida State. Despite that kind of attention, Noil said he's doing his best to slow things down on the recruiting front before the season starts.
"I've been talking to everybody, but I'm starting to relax on them now," he said. "[Schools] usually talk to my mother, and she'll tell them how I'm doing, or who has offered me."
Loaded for 14: Karr's heralded junior class was on full display Thursday night -- more than just Noil.
Gerald Willis III, the Cougars' 6-foot-3, defensive tackle, didn't play as many snaps as other Karr starters but was disruptive in his playing time. Other Karr juniors such as wide receiver Glenn Irons had good nights against the overmatched Amite defense. Noil said his class will have to step up and contribute if the Cougars are to make a run back to the Superdome this December.
"We were sophomores last year, but we still had a good number of us starting," Noil said. "Everybody should know what their assignments are now, and we should be good."
Banged up: The juniors stole the show, but it's important to remember the talent in Karr's senior class as well.
Senior tight end Standish Dobard, a Miami commit, was a matchup nightmare for Amite most of the night. He appeared to be hurt when he took a big shot while hauling in a pass on a seam route. Dobard held on to the pass but fell to the turf for several minutes. He was able to get back up on his own and return to the scrimmage, though. Juluke said Dobard merely had his wind knocked out.
The Cougars' other big-name senior, cornerback Noel Ellis, did not suit up against Amite. Juluke said Ellis sprained his shoulder earlier this month in practice, but the injury isn't serious.
"He's good to go, but we held him out tonight since this doesn't count," Juluke said.