Southern Lab High School quarterback Bladrick Veal’s sophomore season was all about learning to play football — his junior is about proving he understands it.
After a freshman season that saw Veal on the opposite end of passes as a wide receiver, a process he described as frustrating, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound dual-threat quarterback is confident in where he can take a Southern Lab program that fell a game short of the Division I select state championship last season.
“Last year, I really wasn’t patient,” Veal said. “Now I know football. I know what to do, I know where to go with this throw and that, and I know where to go on (certain types of) defenses. It’s just about learning.”
The move from out wide to under center was a premeditated one by Southern Lab coach Nick Mitchell from the day Veal stepped on campus — with the designed goal of teaching him the intricacies of route running and timing while now-Southern redshirt freshman quarterback Deonte Shorts took snaps as a senior.
“From a personal standpoint, we wanted to make sure (Veal) was going to be hungry once he (moved to quarterback),” Mitchell said. “He had to sit behind another quarterback for a year and then find his way out on the field as a freshman.”
Fortunately for Mitchell and his program, the plan took with Veal, who threw for more than 2,600 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season at quarterback in 2013.
Mitchell said the primary focus of Veal’s offseason has been reading defenses and working through progressions.
“He’s got a lot more growing to do physically and mentally from the game standpoint,” Mitchell said. “Now, we’re working on things like when to throw the ball away, when’s the first, second, third progression, how to get from one side of the field to the other with those progressions, how to check down when you know a blitz is coming. The things that are going to make him an elite level quarterback.”
The Southern Lab coach wasn’t shy about his expectations for his quarterback, saying he believes Veal has what it takes to make it into the NFL some day. For now, Mitchell set his goals for Veal’s junior season at 3,500 yards passing, with a career goal of more than 10,000 yards.
Veal has set his bar a little higher. He wants 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air while being intercepted less than three times this year — on top of winning a state title, of course.
“I saw it when he first got to our campus as a freshman,” Mitchell said.
“I knew once he had a chance to get in the weight room and develop as a quarterback in our system, I knew he was going to flourish. Because, when I saw him stay in the pocket and go through his progressions as a freshman, I knew right then and there it was just a matter of time.”
Veal’s time is coming sooner rather than later as the second-year starter is already receiving attention from some of the nation’s top programs. Veal is currently listed as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the country and No. 19 player in the state by 24/7sports.com. He said he’s received offers from Nebraska, Arkansas, Michigan and Arizona State, while several others — including Florida State and Auburn — remain in close contact.
The three-star prospect said he’s refraining from making any decisions about his future and doesn’t expect to announce anything until his senior season.
“I’m still weighing my options on everything,” Veal said. “Everybody is asking me where I’m going or where I’m taking visits, but I’m still weighing my options, and I’m not going to sign anywhere yet.”
Before Veal decides what school he wants to play for at the next level, he’ll first have to make a decision about which sport he wants to play.
As a two-sport athlete, Veal said he’s weighing options about if his future is going to take place on the gridiron or the hardwood.
Veal spent part of his summer as a point guard for a local AAU basketball team and plans to play for Southern Lab in the spring.
Mitchell said the college coaches he’s spoken to have embraced Veal’s ability to play both sports, but he added that he suspects a day will come when Veal has to choose between basketball and football.
For now, though, Veal said he’s just focusing on getting better one day at a time.