The quarterback for Strasburg is settling in to his new role with the Rams
By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Mark Smoot didn't see much playing time as a sophomore at Strasburg last season, but serving as the backup to then-senior quarterback Troy Gordon still had its advantages.
Smoot, now a junior tasked with filling in the hole left by Gordon's graduation this year, used last season as a way to familiarize himself with the Rams' pro-I offense and what it takes to be successful on the football field. That experience alone was enough to give Smoot some confidence as he heads into his first season as Strasburg's starting quarterback.
"I was there all last year, so I got to learn the offense, got to see some playing time. I'm pretty comfortable," Smoot said. "You've got to be a leader now that you're the starting quarterback. I've got to be a leader. It's huge mentally, because it's all on you. Pretty much every possession, it's all on you."
Strasburg's offense faces some uncertainty this season with the departure of Gordon (1,525 total yards, 25 touchdowns) and all-state running back Rakwon White (2,467 rushing yards, 27 TDs), as the duo combined for a large majority of the Rams' offensive output during last season's 10-2 campaign.
Strasburg's entire backfield will be brand new, and the Rams' success on the field this season will largely depend on how well Smoot can perform in his new role.
"It's a big challenge. [Gordon and White] were pretty much our whole offense last year, but I think we have a good offense this year," Smoot said. "I think if we can not make mistakes, not have too many turnovers and penalties, we should be fine.
"We're not going to try to do too much, not going to change it up. We're still going to try to run the ball, try to do that first and then if we've got to pass it, we will."
Strasburg held its first scrimmage of the fall season last Saturday, when it played Hedgesville (W.Va.) and Moorefield (W.Va.) in a three-team scrimmage at Hedgesville High School.
Smoot's play in the scrimmage left a good impression on Rams head coach Mark Roller.
"He was very calm. He had some guys in his face on Saturday and he was still able to get rid of the ball, and he had a pretty good day," Roller said. "I don't know what he [threw for], but for the most part he made great decisions and didn't throw the ball into places that he shouldn't have. I think he'll be OK."
STARTING TO TAKE SHAPE: Saturday's scrimmage allowed Roller to get a better idea of who his starters were going to be when the Rams open the season on Aug. 30 at Stonewall Jackson.
One of the biggest question marks coming into the season was who would take over as the starter at running back, and Roller seems confident that junior Colton Funk will carry the bulk of the load for Strasburg. Roller said Funk impressed him in Saturday's scrimmage and cited Funk's willingness to run between the tackles as a big selling point.
"Some of the things we saw, he was hard to bring down on first contact, and that's always a plus for running backs," Roller said. "That's what he kind of brings to the table. His aggressiveness and his hard-nosed running is probably the reason he is going to earn that spot."
Funk entered fall practice in competition with senior Michael Conley for the starting spot, and Roller said Conley will still play a major role in the Rams' backfield, especially when he gains more confidence in his ability to run inside.
Roller also said that Funk and Conley will start on defense at the two outside linebacker spots in Strasburg's 4-4 defense, filling some holes at a position that was left thin due to graduation.
DRAWING ATTENTION: The James Madison University football program has expressed an interest in Rams senior tight end/linebacker Jonathan Kloosterman.
Dukes assistant coach Clayton Matthews, son of JMU head coach Mickey Matthews, visited Kloosterman in the spring, and Kloosterman was invited to attend a prospect camp at the school several weeks ago.
Kloosterman said JMU is interested in him as a defensive end (Kloosterman was a first team all-Group A, Division 2 selection at the position last season), and the 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior added that the school has been in consistent contact with him and that the Dukes want to see him play in person this season.
"It's exciting, but I'm just trying to focus on this year, performing well this year so that they have something to look at," Kloosterman said.
The coaching staff at the University of Richmond has also been in steady contact with Kloosterman, and William and Mary has expressed interest in seeing Kloosterman play this season, according to Roller. Virginia Military Institute, Shepherd and a growing list of Division II and Division III schools have also shown an interest, said Kloosterman.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org