La PORTE — Learning and grasping a new offense can be complex. Especially for a quarterback. Especially in high school.
That's a few of the reasons why new La Porte football coach Jeremy Lowery decided to name two starting quarterbacks to begin the season, tabbing juniors Jack McGuire and Robbie Kiner to be the team's starting signal callers. Both mostly played JV last year.
"At the end of the day, they're both going to be great," Lowery said. "They just need more time. Instead of putting all of the load on one guy's shoulders, it's a little bit easier to lighten the load and let both of them carry the load a little bit."
Lowery recognizes it's a challenging position to play and him and the coaches ask a lot out of the quarterback in their offense, which is a variation of the flexbone. Besides that philosophy, the coach likes the internal competition the quarterback duo provides. Lowery used a two-quarterback system at Paoli two years ago and had tremendous success with it. His squad went 9-3 and reached the sectional final.
"You've got to have the right type of kids," he said. "You're obviously trying to raise their game with the competition. But they've also got to have respect for each other. They've got to be willing to go out and battle and want to win the job. And those two kids are high-quality kids."
Between meetings and individual and fundamental drills, McGuire and Kiner spend countless hours together. That's afforded them the opportunity to build a bond.
"It's always a bonus when they really get along like they do," Lowery said.
Since taking over the program six months ago, Lowery has seen his signal callers develop.
“I see it as an important role,” Kiner said. “The quarterback in this offense, the rest of the team relies on us. We've got to get the receivers the ball. We've got to make sure the fullbacks have it. If we can't do that effectively, then we won't be able to get moving.”
So what's it going to be like to split time at quarterback?
“It's going to be very different,” McGuire said. “We're both used to just one quarterback at a time, not switching series and stuff. It's going to be hard, but I'm ready for it.”
Both have some similarities and some differences. Each stand 6-foot-2, but McGuire weighs 145 pounds and Kiner 180, and McGuire is left-handed, while Kiner is a righty. Kiner will also see time defensively in the backfield.
With their various physical attributes, they each bring something different to the table.
Kiner is more seasoned, to go along with his endurance.
“Robbie's probably our most experienced kid at playing the position,” Lowery said. “At times, that really shows. He's got some athleticism to him both as a thrower and a runner that are very valuable skills that we need in our quarterback. We ask a lot out of our quarterbacks. We want them to be able to perform in the run game. We want them to be able to perform in the throw game. They have to make a bunch of reads in both the run game and the throw game.”
McGuire, meanwhile, is calm under pressure and absorbs information quickly.
“I love Jack's poise, I love his competitiveness,” Lowery said. “It's hard to rattle him. He's a very smart kid. He picks things up fast. He throws a really nice ball.”
In terms of the offense changing from last year, there's a lot more passing, more motions, and there's several more reads off the keys of the defense. McGuire has noticed a significant shift.
“It's a lot different,” he said. “There's a lot more passing. We have to do five-step drops and three-step drops a lot. We have to do wide plays, different things. It's pretty hard.”
La Porte didn't have five-step or three-step drops for its quarterbacks last year. Despite the differences, Kiner believes he's been grasping the new offense and taking command of it.
“I've been taking it really well,” he said. “We've been taking it step by step. It's been fast paced. We've been practicing since the spring and it's just been an all-out grind. We've really started to get it down and now we're just touching it up and perfecting it, and adding new stuff.”
“It's been pretty hard,” McGuire added. “You've got to learn it. You've got to pay attention, watch film a lot.”
In the offseason, McGuire played baseball for the Slicers, in addition to attending La Porte football workouts and working with coach Bill Reagan, a former Notre Dame Director of Football Operations, in Valparaiso with his Top Gun Quarterback Training. Kiner worked with Reagan in South Bend, too, besides attending a Notre Dame Football Camp and all of the Slicers' football activities.
Last year, McGuire played sparingly at the end of the Valparaiso game, while Kiner saw brief action late in the regular-season contest against Michigan City. Other than that, they're both new to this position at the varsity level.
Sharing the starting quarterback duties worked excellent when Lowery was at the Rams' helm two years ago.
“I said at the time, 'I might go 20 years and never do it again,'” he said. "But our kids are learning an awful lot, so it's really hard to evaluate when you're a newcomer coming in and all the kids are new and the system's new to the kids. I think it's probably going to unfold at some point in the year and somebody's going to be the starter. I just don't know who it is yet.”
At the same time, Lowery mentioned he said the same thing back in 2017 when he used the pair of signal callers at Paoli, and the team kept the duo throughout the season.
"You never know," he said.