Hampton McConnell saw the error almost before the coaches.
A West Forsyth Wolverines receiver had run the wrong route during a passing drill one spring practice last week, and McConnell knew it.
"Come on," McConnell said, "you’re supposed to break there."
A few plays later, McConnell saw it again.
"Come on!" he said to the receiver. "Let’s go!"
It was a drastic departure for McConnell from a season ago when the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder was in competition to be West Forsyth’s next quarterback.
McConnell is now one of the unquestioned leaders for the Wolverines as he’s developed into a dynamic talent that college programs are beginning to notice. The rising senior picked up eight scholarship offers over the last month – Appalachian State, Boston College, Chattanooga, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Miami (Ohio), Middle Tennessee and Toledo.
"It’s great," McConnell said. "I’m loving it."
McConnell burst onto the scene last season in his first as a starter. Until then, he’d been a receiver while former standout A.J. Erdely led the Wolverines’ potent offense. Erdely signed with Middle Tennessee, and McConnell won the job the following spring practice.
Given the controls, McConnell flourished. The dual-threat quarterback completed 134 of 216 passes (62 percent) for 1,761 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions while rushing for 794 yards and 11 touchdowns on 138 carries to be named the Forsyth County News’ 2013 Offensive Player of the Year. He led West to a 7-4 record, its fourth straight playoff appearance, and might have helped the Wolverines upset Dacula in the first round if not for suffering a concussion in the game that kept him out the majority of the second half.
But for West head coach Adam Clack, that was just the start.
"When I tell those college guys they’re seeing a kid who’s only had 11 varsity starts, that blows those guys away," Clack said. "He’s still a young quarterback in his development."
Clack, the team’s offensive coordinator the previous three seasons, said he and McConnell continue to work on developing his skill set, but this spring was more about McConnell’s role on the team.
Last season, McConnell had the luxury of leadership from experienced seniors like offensive linemen Andrew Marshall and Jayce Ratcliff. He could focus on learning the position of quarterback and understanding Clack’s system.
Now, Clack wants him to do both, whether it’s helping receivers with their routes or tutoring a young offensive line with making checks at the line of scrimmage.
"All those things have slowed down for him," Clack said. "Now his job is to help it slow down for those guys."
"Overall, I think it’s been a great spring," McConnell said. "I think everybody’s picked up really quick, a lot quicker than we did last year."
Clack’s promotion after former head coach Frank Hepler helped.
"It could not have gone any better," McConnell said. "Everybody’s used to coach Clack. Everybody trusts coach Clack. … He was the man for the job, and I think he’s stepped up so far and done a great job."
McConnell is preparing for a pivotal summer. Soon he’ll begin making college visits, starting with Boston College this week. He’ll make the rounds to exposure camps.
More offers are sure to come, but McConnell is just enjoying the process.
"There are ups and downs," McConnell said. "There are a lot of coaches telling you the same thing. There are a lot of coaches that will say they can do this better or they can do that better. You got to pick which [school] you want, which one’s best for you and hopefully soon I’ll come to that decision."