Prep football | Palmetto's coveted quarterback Jack Allison growing into team leader

jlembo@bradenton.comMay 21, 2014 

PALMETTO -- This time last year, Jack Allison was in a fight to make the team, trying to unseat an incumbent quarterback who had just taken Palmetto to its third straight playoff appearance.

Mission accomplished: Allison beat out Chris Tuten last summer to win the starting job as a sophomore and will indeed be under center Friday when the Tigers head to Booker for their spring game.

His spot on the depth chart is secure, but Allison is still fighting. Only this time, his opponent is his own expectations.

"Now, I'm fighting to win a state championship. The mindset's a lot different this year," Allison said Monday evening. "I'm fighting to get better than I was last year, to win more football games, definitely. I'm really fighting just to be a better me -- a better leader."

After getting off to a wobbly beginning -- Allison threw four interceptions and no touchdowns during the Tigers' first two games -- the lanky Allison began learning on the fly in 2013. He finished with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions while throwing for 1,778 yards to lead Palmetto to its fourth straight playoff berth, a first for the program.

The season ended with a one-point loss to Tarpon Springs East Lake in the first round of the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs, but Allison's work didn't stop there. He worked out at Palmetto for a month before heading east to Lakewood Ranch to exercise with local trainer Eltonjohn Strawderman every day from 3 to 6 p.m.

"He has made tremendous strides," said Palmetto coach Dave Marino, ready to have the same quarterback in consecutive years for the first time since taking over the Tigers in 2010. "He's extremely competitive, and that's the reason he won the job. We had a starter, and he came in and took it from him."

Allison estimates he has grown two inches -- he was listed at 6-foot-5 on Palmetto's 2013 roster -- while adding 10 pounds of muscle to his frame, all of which he hopes will make him more attractive to schools at the next level.

He has already received offers from UCF, USF, Miami and Tennessee. And while Allison wants to deliver Palmetto its first football state title since 1975, what he really wants to do his parlay football into an education.

"Football is my way to college, and I've got to go to college. I've just got to get better," he said. "I wouldn't say it's overwhelming. It's a really crazy experience, because I grew up seeing kids getting offers. And now that I'm getting offers, it's really awesome to be part of the process."

While Allison passes the eye test, Marino said his most alluring quality is his ability to avoid the rush while keeping his eyes downfield and making an accurate throw.

"That's the key; that's what the colleges look for," he said. "That's what makes him special."

Marino praised Allison's demeanor and upbringing and is confident both will keep the quarterback cool while the collegiate offers continue to roll in, which should happen if Allison's junior season approaches or betters his sophomore campaign.

Allison seems to have a handle on the attention.

"You've got to really prioritize your life, basically," he said. "So I have a mindset for here, and I'll put 100 percent effort into the process of recruiting. But when it's time for practice, you block it all out and go hard at practice."

Now he's prepared for another season under center.

"At the beginning of the season, the game was just fast," Allison said. "As the season went on, I understood the offense a lot more, and the game just slowed down for me."

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