Burrell breaking in experienced quarterback
Senior James Liput enters his first season as the No. 1 quarterback at Burrell but feels confident when studying the Bucs' playbook and calm when peering across the line of scrimmage.
Liput's a luxury for a team that graduated its top signal-caller.
In 2010 and '11, Liput gained valuable experience equaling about seven full games while filling in for Zack Middleby, who missed significant playing time during an injury-plagued career.
In the past two seasons combined, Liput completed 60 of 104 passes for 768 yards and seven touchdowns.
Those are impressive numbers for a reserve.
“The experience I've had has been a huge help,” Liput said. “I've been under the lights. I've been in prime-time games. I don't feel extra pressure. I'm confident in my team and confident about what we can do.”
Liput leads an experienced squad that finished 5-2 in the Allegheny Conference (6-4 overall) and qualified for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs last year.
Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt appreciates the bonus of having a seasoned quarterback take over for Middleby, a two-year starter who is now at Division III Mt. Union.
“We're very fortunate to have James,” Horwatt said. “He's seen enough time to make the transition much easier.”
While Middleby was a quick-footed, dual-threat quarterback, Liput fits more comfortably into the mold of a drop-back passer. His completion percentage of 57.7 over the past two years was built on arm strength and accuracy as well as patience to find an open receiver.
“James makes smart decisions,” Horwatt said. “He's very capable of handling the offense and reading defenses.”
Liput credits Burrell assistant coach Tom Henderson with his development as a quarterback.
Henderson served as the Bucs' head coach from 1993-2005 and 2008-10. He stepped down from the top post for personal reasons both times. Liput volunteered to become a Burrell ball boy in kindergarten and started receiving instruction from Henderson as early as second grade.
“He molded me into the quarterback I am today,” Liput said. “I am where I am because of him. I've known him all my life. I have a close relationship with him. There's a lot of comfort there.”
Liput could spot another long-time friend when he looks for a passing target. His cousin, junior Nick Pattock, starts at wide receiver. They played doubles for Burrell's tennis team in the past and have built a good rapport on the football field, too.
“Whenever I want to throw (for practice), he's always there,” Liput said. “We have a great chemistry together.”
Paul Kogut is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-224-2696.