Practice starts on Monday, the season kicks off a little more than three weeks from now and senior Tucker Sutter doesn’t know where on the football field he’ll line up for Lawrence High’s offense.
He could start at quarterback. Maybe at receiver. With this team’s youth, assignments are in a state of flux for many Lions — even a senior leader such as Sutter, one of five returning starters.
As a junior, he started at strong safety on defense. Then, LHS didn’t need him to play both ways, but coach Dirk Wedd said that’s no longer the case. Still, quarterback and other positions on the depth chart won’t be determined for at least a few weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of question marks,” Wedd said, “when you lose as many starters as we’ve lost.”
According to the coach, Sutter will start at receiver if he doesn’t get named Lawrence’s No. 1 quarterback. In the meantime, Sutter will continue working and waiting.
“It’s a little tough, because I don’t know where I’m gonna play, really,” the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior said. “But I just want to play wherever gives the team the best chance to win, because the most fun part of football is winning.”
If pressed to choose his favorite position, offense and defense included, Sutter prefers playing quarterback.
“I’m probably not the most talented thrower out there, but I like running the ball,” he said, “and I feel like I’m a good leader, vocally, and I carry myself well, I think. It’s a lot of fun to have control out there.”
Transitioning to receiver has its appeal, too. Sutter grew up envisioning himself as a pass-catcher, often laying out to imitate highlight-reel grabs on tosses sent his way by his father, Matt, who played receiver for LHS from 1986-87, when the Lions won back-to-back state titles.
This summer the second-generation Lion found himself occasionally jumping in the receiver line when he and Lawrence’s other two quarterbacks, sophomore Alan Clothier and junior Nyle Anderson (a transfer from Free State), met up with fellow skill players Kieran Severa, Drew Green, Price Morgan, JD Woods, J’mony Bryant, Zay Boldridge and Nick Benton for voluntary workouts.
A couple months back, Severa said, those sessions had a more laid-back feel. Lately, though, Sutter has led the charge to make sure the athletes stay longer and work harder.
“He’s serious about getting better,” Severa said, “and getting our wide receivers better.”
Such news doesn’t surprise Wedd, who knows Sutter hates to lose at anything. That reminds the coach of the reputations of Tucker’s father and uncle, Bill, who played running back and defensive back at LHS in 1984 (a state title year) and ‘85 before playing at Kansas University.
“They played hard,” Wedd said. “They were tough kids and I think a lot of those attributes are very evident in Tucker. He’s very competitive.”
Because of his bloodlines, Sutter said playing at LHS means a lot to him. His father and uncle often talk about the old days and state titles, and he wants to create more memories he can share with his family years from now.
Sutter knows the Lions, who likely will put lots of thus-far-inexperienced sophomores and juniors on the field, must jell in a hurry if they want to win games this fall.
“It gets real on Friday nights,” he said. “They don’t really know what’s coming.”
Amid all the uncertainty, Severa said the Lions at least recognize Sutter for what he can provide.
“He’s going to score touchdowns for us on offense and make huge plays on defense,” Severa said. “He’s a guy that I legitimately trust on the football field next to me.”
Wedd shares those expectations. He said sometimes coaches don’t play the most talented kid, because they prefer a player who will perform when the lights are shining down on the field.
Sutter proved his worth as a strong safety last fall, and even if Wedd hasn’t decided where he’ll play on offense, the coach expects Sutter to execute, because his strongest attribute might be his desire for LHS victories.
“You can’t have too many kids like that,” Wedd said. “He bleeds red and black.”