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Advocate photo by CAROLINE OURSO — Patrick Arnold, an up-and-coming senior quarterback for Tara High School, practices during presason drills Thursday morning.

Playing tight end doesn’t usually open up an opportunity to play quarterback, but Tara High senior Patrick Arnold is an exception.

A versatile athlete who was an all-district basketball player last season, Arnold has taken a circuitous route on the football field. It's a path that has him poised for a breakout season as one of Baton Rouge’s more intriguing college prospects.

Arnold guided Tara to a second place at last weekend’s 7-on-7 Division II competition at LSU. Scotlandville edged Tara 14-9 for the championship, but it was an accomplishment for a program that was winless last year.

“He really spread the ball across the field to all his receivers,” first-year Tara coach Terry Washington said. “He made his progressions and did very well. I look back to the beginning of the summer and we did okay, but as the weeks went by he’s gotten better and better.”

Arnold, who is 6-foot-4, has added 20 pounds to his frame and now weighs 215 pounds. Though still learning to play quarterback, he considers himself a pocket passer.

“I’m not really much of a running quarterback, but people ask me about it a lot,” Arnold said. “My throwing has improved a lot. My arm strength has gone up, my accuracy throwing downfield, my presence in the pocket — everything went up a notch.”

It came together last weekend at the 7-on7 tournament where Arnold said he received words of encouragement from LSU’s Cam Cameron. He has also heard from Mississippi State and most of the other in-state schools including Louisiana Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe.

It all started for Arnold as a defensive lineman. He concentrated more on basketball in his freshman and sophomore years, when he moved to tight end.

That changed last season when Arnold got a chance to play quarterback.

“We were short on quarterbacks so they tried me there,” Arnold said. “They felt I could help a little bit because it gave us the passing game.”

Arnold was hampered by an early season ankle injury and split time with JaJuantae Brown most of the season. The Trojans struggled to find a rhythm on offense and defense, and finished the season having scored just 45 total points.

There has been a change this summer when Washington has been impressed with Arnold’s progress.

“There’s nowhere to go but up,” Washington said. “Going back to the spring game against Broadmoor we moved the ball. We saw glimpses then that we’re going to be OK.

“Patrick is raw. He still has a lot of work to do, but he’s exceeding expectations."

Washington began with instilling a work ethic and getting players excited about the new season. It has created enthusiasm throughout the school as more students have come out to play.

“For our division we didn’t have a lot of people playing but we’ve got more guys now and there’s more competition,” Arnold said. “Last year, we were searching for a leader, but now there are a lot of leaders on offense and defense.”

Those leaders will be looking to create success that wasn’t there a season ago, but it's an attainable goal, Washington said.

“How many games will we win? I don’t know," he said. "What really counts is putting a good, competitive team on the field and I think we’ll do that. If we play for 48 minutes every night, we’ll be successful at the end.”