By Malcolm Butler
Jaden Osborne isn’t going to click his heels together, say no place like home, and end up at the Dome in New Orleans in December.
But the third year starter at QB for Ruston High may lead his team there the old fashion way.
On Saturday night, Osborne looked like a more well-rounded, confident quarterback as he led the Bearcats to a 27-6 jamboree “win” over West Monroe at Joe Aillet Stadium.
From his sophomore year when he first started for Ruston until now, Osborne has taken tremendous strides under center.
“His maturation process has been really good,” said RHS coach Jerrod Baugh during postgame interviews. “Jaden should be settled in at this point. He’s a three-year starter at quarterback. Having that experience back there for us is really handy from the perspective that you bring a guy back who’s really familiar with the offense. He’s been playing with these guys for a long time.
“It doesn’t matter what league you play in whether it’s high school or college of the NFL, you see teams that go a long way in the postseason usually have an experienced quarterback and the guys around him are comfortable with him. That’s no different with Jaden and us. He looked comfortable back there tonight.”
The 6-foot, 170-pound Osborne will be a key – if not the key – if the Bearcats are to make a deep run into the Louisiana Class 5A playoffs this year. Based on what the Ruston defense looked like Saturday night (as well as the special teams units), if Osborne can orchestrate a talented offensive unit into a consistent big-play scoring machine, the Bearcats may just have a chance to make a run all the way to the dome.
But first things first.
As a sophomore, Osborne was an athletic kid who was asked to play quarterback. Now three years later, Baugh admits that he is a quarterback that is athletic.
“He relied on his natural abilities as a sophomore,” said Baugh. “He can run and jump and do all of those things, and he throws the football really well. But there’s only so far that can take you if you don’t mature and turn into a quarterback. I think that’s what he’s done.”
His skill-set and his arsenal was on display Saturday night. From a frozen rope on a deep slant that converted a third down on the Bearcats opening drive to an 18-TD strike to wide receiver Aaron Jackson that gave Ruston an early 7-0 lead.
Osborne looked comfortable sitting in the pocket, buying his receivers time, and making a throw – even if it wasn’t his first read. And he made a number of nice throws on deep passes, including a 42-yard down the field strike to Logan Malone, as well as some timely check downs to running backs.
Not only did Osborne look like a veteran quarterback Saturday night, but it appears he has a number of weapons from the wide receiver position to tight end to running back. But Osborne is the ultimate key to making the Bearcats click.
He did that Saturday night.
“I think it’s Jaden having confidence in himself and the guys that he’s throwing the football to,” said Baugh. “I like to do what we can do to move the football and score points, whatever that may be. I told our guys that we had a lot of dropped balls in the Byrd scrimmage, and I challenged our receiver group.
“I told them that we are going to have to decide what things it is we are going to do well and what things we have to do to move the football and get points on the board. All the receivers took that challenge and made some plays tonight. We’re going to need that throughout the season.”
Osborne completed 8-of-16 passes for 166 yards and a TD in the win. And it came on a night where the Bearcats could muster only 37 yards rushing on 21 attempts against a stingy Rebels run defense.
In the past that lack of running production would have spelled doom for Ruston against West Monroe. But this year looks a little different for the Bearcats.
“Our first group (offense) has been going against our first group defense, and I feel like we have a really good defense,” said Baugh. “I think Jaden was a little bit more comfortable back there tonight since it wasn’t our guys he was going against.”
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