MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

August 20, 2013

Wagoner ex adjusting to new positions

TAHLEQUAH – Quarterback had been Prince McJunkins’ job description ever since he began playing middle school football at Wagoner. The Bulldogs even rode the dual-threat signal caller all the way to a Class 4A state runner-up in 2010.

That led to McJunkins signing a letter of intent with Georgia Southern to – you guessed it – play quarterback.

However, his one semester in Statesboro, Ga., didn’t work out like McJunkins had planned, so he started working on a plan to return to Oklahoma. He eventually decided on enrolling at Northeastern State, even though the quarterback position was being occupied by Johnny Deaton.

So McJunkins opted to switch to a position that he said he had never played before.

Wide receiver.

“I was the quarterback ever since I was in sixth or seventh grade for Wagoner,” McJunkins said. “Last year was my first year of playing wide receiver.”

Once McJunkins arrived on campus, Northeastern State didn’t waste any time inserting him into the rotation.

“I was nervous in the first game that I played,” said McJunkins, who caught three passes for 36 yards in NSU’s season-opening game against Pittsburg State last year.

“Coming from having to play quarterback to having to play a whole new position and learning the ins and outs, I was nervous a little bit. But I wasn’t shocked with some of the things I had done, because I was talented. I just had to go explore those talents.”

Prior to arriving in Tahlequah, McJunkins contacted NSU head coach Kenny Evans and they kicked around the idea of McJunkins playing receiver.

“That was what I wanted,” said McJunkins, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound soon-to-be sophomore pass catcher. “...With (Evans) being open and honest, that just made our trust grow. And that’s what every player wants is a trustworthy coach, and a coach that will stand by his word.”

To further enhance his trust in his young receiver, Evans tabbed McJunkins as the RiverHawks’ holder for the upcoming 2013 campaign.

Previously, Cale Fulps handled the duties at holder – a position that Evans doesn’t take for granted. But after graduating, the former Broken Arrow quarterback has handed off his duties to another former high school quarterback.

And don’t think Evans doesn’t know that.

“That’s a big replacement,” Evans said.

To add to McJunkins’ to-do list, Evans also appointed him as the team’s quarterback when they go to their wildhawk offense – basically, the wildcat offense at most other schools.

“It’s a chance to get him the ball and give us a different style of rushing attack,” Evans said, adding that running the option could be a strong possibility when McJunkins is the signal caller.

“(Wagoner head coach Dale) Condict had him doing that at Wagoner, so we want to capitalize on that.”

Despite only nine catches for 76 yards last season, McJunkins is NSU’s leading receiver returning to this year’s squad. Jermaine Sherman (45 catches), Jahmai Coleman (40), Chucky Bryant (19) and Gionni Harris (18) are all gone.

This year, McJunkins will team up with Cruz Williams, Steffon Herd, Jordan Robinson, Tank Richmond, Josiah Reed and others to form a young receiver core for  Deaton.

“We have a really good group,” McJunkins said of the receivers. “...I think we’re going to be a really talented group, so I’m just as confident in this group as I am with Johnny playing quarterback or with the running backs that we have.”

Evans knows that McJunkins saw the field sparingly last season, but he knows that’s about to change when the RiverHawks open the season at Pittsburg State on Sept. 7.

“Prince saw limited action last year, and that won’t be the case this year,” Evans said. “We’re throwing a lot of things on Prince’s shoulders, and hopefully he’ll be able to pick everything up and expand it even more.”

– Ben Johnson is the sports editor for the Tahlequah Daily Press.

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