Jacksonville State qualifies on both counts -- lucky to be deep at both positions.
The Gamecocks are comfortable with any of their three quarterbacks in the game, just as they are comfortable with any of their three backs. Both -- Kyle West at quarterback and Miles Jones at running back -- have shown through the first three games of the season that being third on the two-deep is just a matter of space.
“They’re kind of a 'three,' but they’re really not. They’re kind of two-and-a-halfs," said JSU coach Bill Clark, who fosters competition on his roster by defining the regulars and reserves as A1-A2s and B1-B2s. “Both those guys really did a good job being ready to play when they had their opportunity. I don’t know if we have anybody else quite in those situations.”
The Gamecocks (3-0) have multiple players at several positions -- notably defensive line and wide receiver -- but rotate through those spots during games. The quarterback and running backs have clear definition.
Jones is behind DaMarcus James and Troymaine Pope in the backfield. Jones entered the Jacksonville game when it was well in hand in the second half. He ran for 102 yards in the fourth quarter alone.
He got some time last week against North Alabama when James hurt his ankle early and Pope needed a break, and had 24 yards on seven carries.
“This is a guy that we -- I don’t want to say disappointed -- but we had high expectations from what I heard about his recruitment and just did not really see that in the spring,” Clark said. “In summer camp, I started seeing a different guy. I don’t know if it was his summer weight room stuff or what, but he started practice with a little more confidence.
“Then we started asking the first and second guy to give a little more attention to detail and finish all their runs, which meant we were going to start using our third running back (for motivation) and that’s how he started getting that work.”
West, at one time in the spring the No. 1 quarterback, is behind Eli Jenkins and Minnesota transfer Max Shortell. He has gotten the nickname “Mr. Two-Minute,” for his proficiency at managing the two-minute offense, but if his play Saturday is any indication, his claim at fame will be a lot longer than that.
After making his collegiate debut in some mop-up duty against Jacksonville, the redshirt sophomore saw his most extensive action of the season against North Alabama.
He was pressed into service as the No. 2 when the coaches determined after pre-game warm-ups Shortell couldn’t go. He entered on the Gamecocks' final possession of the first half and again early in the fourth quarter right after the JSU defense turned back a potential game-tying 2-point conversion.
With his parents in the stands, he completed his first three passes.
“It was just fun, glad to finally get my first meaningful reps here,” he said. “Coach told me make sure you stay ready and he did a great job preparing us.”
The third quarterback role is typically one of holding the clipboard and signaling plays. West said in the spring he would be happy with that if that was his role this season, as he was just glad to be part of the roster.
He came to campus as a walk-on and shortly into preseason practice this year was put on scholarship.
This week he is back at practice preparing like he's the starter and awaiting whatever role the coaches have planned.
“I'm supporting Eli and Max," he said. "Us three hang out Thursday night after practice. We watch the Thursday Night Football game together. We have a really good bond and really good friendship. At the same time, we're competing on the field. I'm just there really to support those guy in whatever they're doing, and if I get my chance like I did Saturday, I'll take advantage of it."
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577