By T. Scott Boatright
If there’s such a thing as “quiet swagger,” then Ruston Bearcats junior quarterback Jaden Osborne fits that definition to a T.
Swagger is defined as a trait in which someone behaves in a very confident and typically arrogant or aggressive way.
Keep the confidence and drop the arrogance and aggressive manner, and you have Osborne.
“Jaden is definitely not a talker,” said RHS coach Jerrod Baugh. “But he gets out and works hard every day and sets an example by what he does daily. He’s quiet, but carries himself in a strong way and I think that’s noticed by both the players and the coaches.”
The Bearcats went 8-2 during the regular season, and Osborne’s play at quarterback in Bearcats’ triple option offensive attack, along with running back Dyson Fields and fullback Devian Wilson, puts him in the driver’s seat.
“He’s what makes it work,” Baugh said about Osborne. “He has a lot of freedom to check things and make changes at the line of scrimmage according to where people line up defensively. There’s a lot going on for him as far as presnap — knowing what play we need to get into, who’s his read guy, who is he supposed to pitch off of, and then it can all change when the ball is snapped. Being able to execute all of that takes tons and tons of repetition and film study.”
The fact that Osborne has played in the triple option for years now shows in his play on the field.
“Jaden can do a lot of different things. Over the years he’s developed in what he’s looking at — what he’s seeing, defensively,” Baugh said of his starting quarterback, who’s been playing in the same triple option system since his days as a Bearkit at Ruston Junior High School. “If you play option offense, that’s the best way to do it — start them at a young age. So he understands what the defenses are doing and his decision continues getting better and better because of it. Plus he’s great athletically and can do a lot of things just because of that.”
The fact that the 6-0, 160-pound Osborne is in his second year as a starter has definitely shown as this season has progressed for the Bearcats.
“In the triple option, if you have a quarterback, running back and fullback who are all pretty good and understands their roles and reads, that’s what makes it hard to defend,” Baugh said. “It’s good that all three (Osborne, Fields and Wilson) can do it robotically, as if in their sleep, just based on taking so many reps in practice. But with all three being as athletic as they are, even if there is a misread and the ball goes to what should have been the second or third choice, we’re still not in bad shape.”
But it has still come down to reps and experience for Osborne, Baugh said.
“He’s grown tremendously over the past two seasons, especially as far as the option stuff is concerned,” Baugh said. “Really, there’s no real way to simulate it in drills, even though we do try to do that some. The best way to do it is to get out and take live snaps against a real opponent, because you can read a coach holding a practice dummy all you want, but until there are live bodies flying around and coming at you, and trying to read guys and react quickly, you’re not getting it. You have to live it — experience it — to learn it.”
Osborne agrees that experience has improved his play.
“I’ve had more of a feel for the offense this year because there’s not nearly as much stuff that’s new to me popping up,” Osborne said. “Most things we go over now I’ve already been over it and done it. There’s less and less new stuff.”
Baugh said Osborne’s football IQ has also helped greatly in his success on the field.
“He’s studied a lot of football,” Baugh said. “He’s watched and studied it since he was young. You see and hear all those stories about the pro quarterbacks and how much study they do and how much video they watch. Learning what other people are doing and then doing it himself has played an important role for him.”
Osborne said it’s because of his dual threat abilities as a runner and as a passer that he’s fit so well in Ruston’s triple option attack and that he believes being smart with the ball and his elusiveness are two of his top traits.
“I like that I can do multiple things in this offense,” Osborne said. “I have a good relationship with my teammates and we know and understand how each other plays. If I need to hand off, I hand it off. If I need to run, I run. And if I need to pass, I pass. It’s not just a one-dimensional offense, and that’s what I like most about it.”
Osborne’s “game vision” has also played a big role for him and the Bearcats this season, Baugh said.
“I think he has natural vision, somewhat, and then there’s watching video of the opponents, not that they’ll necessarily run the same things when you play them, but you can see how a player plays and get to know your opponent,” Baugh said.“That counts during a game, too. As a game moves along, he gets to see and know how the defense plays certain things. So usually his runs are later on, where he’s had that opportunity to see how the defense is playing things. But vision, and being able to see and understand all of those things, is a big deal.”
“Doing what we do offensively, and having a quarterback who knows what he’s doing and you can turn loose, that’s a big deal. And he’s going to keep getting better. He’ll keep getting better next year. He’s turning into something special, because he’s working hard for it.”
But for now, Baugh, Osborne and the Bearcats are only focused on what comes next — Friday’s Class 5A home playoff game against Covington.
“I feel good,” Osborne said. “Since we went on that eight game win streak, I kept getting more and more confident. So I feel good. I’m ready for Friday night. We’re ready for Friday. We’re ready for a bunch more Friday nights.”
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