By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PUNTA GORDA — Alex Muse came to Charlotte for the opportunity to play quarterback.
Tonight, he’ll get his wish.
Muse, who transferred from Port Charlotte in the summer to join the Tarpons, was named Charlotte’s starting quarterback for its season opener against Dunbar. He beat out Zach Radulesco and Anthony Squitieri for the nod after all three played in last Friday’s win over Mariner in the preseason classic, with Muse completing 2 of 3 passes for 67 yards.
It’s now squarely on the junior’s shoulders to lead a program that advanced all the way to the Class 6A state semifinals last season. As for winning the starting job, Muse expected to all summer.
“I wasn’t really surprised by it, but it’s definitely a humbling experience taking over a team that won a regional championship,” Muse said. “It’s pretty big. It’s a lot of weight on my shoulders, but I’m prepared and ready for it and excited for it.”
None of the three quarterbacks appeared to separate themselves against Mariner. Radulesco was just 1-for-4 for 40 yards while Squietieri completed 4 of 8 for 33 yards.
But when Charlotte’s coaches put on the tape, they believed they saw a greater upside with Muse.
“It was a hard decision but it’s done and we move on,” Charlotte coach Binky Waldrop said.
“Right now, he gives us more of an upside. We’ll see. He still has to perform, he knows that, but I think he’ll get better as he goes.”
Muse takes over for last year’s starter Dee Hicks, who was the Sun’s offensive player of the year after finishing the year with 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. But it’s what Hicks did with his legs that made Charlotte’s offense so dynamic as he also rushed for 507 yards and eight more touchdowns.
Replacing Hicks’ production is nearly impossible, but Muse isn’t being asked to do so. He’s just being asked to run the offense efficiently.
Muse isn’t as fast Hicks, but his speed played a role in Waldrop’s decision.
“All three quarterbacks do different things so Alex is different. He’s more of a threat to run,” Waldrop said.
“Dee ran a 4.3. (Muse) is more of a power runner, but he has wheels.”
Winning the starting job was an uphill battle for Muse. The quarterback battle began as a two-man race in the spring between Radulesco and Squitieri until Muse arrived in the summer to join the competition.
Muse was No. 2 on the depth chart at Port Charlotte behind Paul Barnes and says he didn’t believe he was getting a fair look at quarterback. That led to his transfer for Charlotte in the summer and a quick study of a new offense.
“Coming in, I was behind so I didn’t really know the plays and everything, but through hard work and everything I was able to recover pretty quick and take over the spot,” Muse said. “My teammates have been behind me the whole time because I’ve actually played with a bunch of these guys previously in DeSoto Pop Warner so that’s helped me out a lot.”
The Tarpons will find out a lot about their new quarterback tonight against a Dunbar squad that features multiple Division I prospects, including receiver Shocky Jacques-Louis (Tennessee commit), and defensive ends Rocky Jacques-Louis (FIU commit) and Derick Hunter (Miami commit).
“It’s going to be very fast-paced, it’s probably going to be wet and it’s going to be competitive. It’s going to be really good game and I’m excited to see how we react to the spotlight,” Muse said.