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Howland’s new man in charge

August 25, 2013
By JOE SIMON - Tribune Chronicle ( , Underthelights

HOWLAND - Ross Griffin fondly remembers his days at quarterback for Howland.

He made big plays by scrambling outside of the pocket. He threw the ball down the field for long touchdowns. It was fun. It also was junior high.

"It's the first time I've actually stepped on the field as a quarterback since seventh grade," laughed Griffin, now a senior for the Tigers. "It's a lot faster, but I'm excited for it."

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Ross Griffin

So is his coach.

Dominic Menendez, in his first year mentoring Howland, won't be the only rookie leading the Tigers. Griffin, who played receiver last season, is back at quarterback now that two-year starter Eric Lockney graduated. Menendez said Griffin is making a smooth transition and he's intrigued by the skill set of the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Griffin.

"He's got a strong arm, that's for sure, and he's pretty mobile, so we may ask him to do some things on his feet," Menendez said. "If the pocket breaks downs, he's a guy who's capable of getting out of there and making a play."

Physical attributes won't be enough to get the job done, and Griffin is well aware of that fact. He admitted that knowing the responsibilities of all his teammates was overwhelming at first, but after spending his offseason working with quarterbacks' coach Jon Elliot and attending multiple quarterback camps, his development hasn't been as difficult.

"As a wide receiver, you run your route or get your block and you really don't have as much to do," Griffin said. "At quarterback, you have to make your reads, carry out your fakes and you've gotta know where everyone is going.

"Coach Elliot has taught me a lot. I definitely feel a lot more comfortable in the game. The biggest things to work on now is reads. I've got to work on real game situations, rolling out of the pocket and finding where that outside linebacker or that safety is and just make my reads."

One of Griffin's best qualities is that if things break down, the former wide receiver can make plays with his feet. While he said he makes sure not to force a scramble, his ability to make something out of nothing was a key reason he earned the job.

"He made some plays last week in our scrimmage, especially on his feet, and just by him being able to do that - make plays out of something that's not there - really stood out," Menendez said. "He's done a great job understanding the offense. He played receiver last year, so he's familiar with it. He's a smart kid. He puts the extra hours in when need be. We're doing things a little differently offensively this year, and he's grasped all the concepts and really become the extra coach on the field."

His leadership skills stem from the confidence he has in his teammates, Griffin said.

He knows the speed of his receivers - "two of them are my best friends," he said - so their timing on routes is good. And the Tigers have long been known for possessing a powerful offensive line, something he said will again be the case. Throw in a few talented running backs and a long-standing chemistry, and Griffin doesn't expect any growing pains for the Tigers, who have made the playoffs six straight years.

"I have the most confidence I've ever had in a team," he said. "I've played with these kids all my life - through Howland Little Tigers and seventh and eighth grade. All the kids playing are all my close friends. We're with each other ever day, so I know my team and I know we're going to get it done this year."


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