It's been a busy offseason for Orlando Boone High quarterback Alton Meeks. And most of it hasn't exactly been a lot of fun.
First of all, the painful part was the surgery and rehab of a torn labrum in his right, throwing shoulder. He's getting there, but it's still a few months from fully healing and Meeks will likely only see limited practice time when the spring session begins in May.
The injury actually kept him from going for a third state title in a row as a wrestler this past season, which was difficult for Meeks, watching wrestlers he had beaten in the past make their way through the state tournament.
Then came the oft-asked questions about what football position he would play in college. Alton Meeks, who will be a senior next season, is a quarterback. His career path has been headed in that direction all along.
He hasn't even approached the fork in the road that will force him to make a decision. Yet, people are trying to make the decision for him. They say he could be a star linebacker at the next level with his size at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds. His wrestling prowess even lends more credibility to the toughness scouts foresee in him as a defensive force.
Meeks does seem to be coming around to the idea. While on a visit last week to the UCF campus with teammate RB A.J. Turman, the Knights offered Meeks as a linebacker, and this time he was very open to the possibility of both playing linebacker, and doing so at UCF.
"I liked it a lot. I liked the facilities and liked all the coaches. It went pretty well," Meeks said of UCF. "I was thinking it probably wouldn't be nearly as nice as like Miami or FSU, but they were just as nice, if not better. They have all brand-new stuff and the indoor facility [Nicholson Field House).
"They said Alabama practiced there for their bowl game a couple of years ago and they went back and remodeled their indoor to be the same as UCF's. I thought that was pretty cool."
"I could definitely see myself playing [at UCF]," Meeks said. "It's close to home and everyone in my family would love to come and watch me play in college. I already know a lot of guys on the team and the coaches seem to be pretty knowledgable and know what they are talking about.
"They have a brand new stadium and everything is pretty much brand new. Everythig is real nice."
UCF would love to see a trend start to swing its way with local players deciding to stay home. Several fish got away last year, but an upheaval within the UCF coaching ranks and a recruiting investigation could have been the biggest reason the Knights lost out on players like Alton Howard (Tennessee), Dvario Montgomery (Winter Park), Karl Joseph (West Virginia) and Duaron Williams (Iowa State), just to name a few.
They did land top wide receivers Drico Johnson (Orlando Agape Christian) and Taylor Oldham (South Daytona Warner Christian), but any of the above players added to the mix would have been considered a decent coup.
"I think they have just as much to offer as anyone else," Meeks said. "They are definitely on the rise and now they are in the Big East, which is something they are really trying to sell us on, too.
As for playing linebacker, it was only a month ago that Meeks still wasn't quite sure what position he would pursue in college. He had average quarterback numbers last year on a Boone team that also had one of the state's best running backs in Turman, who ran for 1,324 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Meeks was 85-of-185 (46 percent) passing for 1,273 yards with 15 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Those numbers don't exactly scream out college quarterback.
"UCF said they'd recruit me as a linebacker, quarterback and even H-back," Meeks said, "but I think the defensive coaches really like me. They said they like my structure, my size and said that I could definitely be a good linebacker."
His "structure" and potential to add to that frame might also have some colleges thinking he could play tight end.
"That's what USF was talking to me about," Meeks said. "A couple of schools had said that ... more of an H-back type of deal than a down lineman, because I don't have the height. They're looking for more like 6-4, 6-5 kind of guys ... more the Aaron Hernandez kind of player. That's what they said."
One thing Meeks knows for sure, he won't likely be playing a lot of linebacker for Boone High. Head coach Phil Ziglar would rather have his quarterback on the field as quarterback, and not playing linebacker and making himself more vulnerable to inury.
Ironically, Meeks hurt his shoulder in Week 5 last year -- playing quarterback.
"Originally I just wanted to see how the surgery went and see how long it took to get back into it and that would kind of make my decision," Meeks said of the two positions. "But the schools I'm talking to haven't said anything about having a problem with the surgery."
Still Meeks isn't ready to say one way or the other which position he'll play.
"I'm not sure when," he said. "It could be as soon as spring football or it could be next football season when I decide. I'd like to play quarterback but a lot of schools have told me that I could be a pretty good linebacker."
Which means Meeks has two choices to make as a college prospect -- picking a position AND a school.
Choosing to play linebacker could get Meeks on the field faster at the next level.
"That has something to do with it," Meeks said. "There have been some schools who said that, 'you can get on the field early playing quarterback,' and then some who have said, 'you can get on the field early playing linebacker,' but they also feel like I'd have a better career at linebacker."
It may even come down to simple math. There are sometimes three or four times as many linebackers on the field than there are quarterbacks.
"Exactly," Meeks said.
He also said he would like to make improvement in the mental part of his game as a quarterback, and there's not much of a better way to work those scenarios out than within game-time situations.
"You can't really simulate a game very well. The game is so much different than practice or 7on7 and stuff like that," Meeks said.
He has done well at camps like the ESPN-ushered Elite 11 Quarterback Challenge.
"It's great competition. You're out there with some of the best quarterbacks in the country and so you push yourself to be at the top," Meeks said.
The Elite 11 only comes as close as Atlanta this year on April 20, so he may have to wait until late in the competition to give his arm more healing time. The final Elite 11 regional competition is slated for June 16 in Las Vegas.
"We may have to go out there because that's the latest one," he said.
Meeks earned the Golden Gun accuracy challenge at the Atlanta Elie 11 regional last year.
Some people have even told Meeks he should forget about this football stuff. Wrestling is where it's at for the two-time Florida state champion.
"I missed it a lot this year," Meeks said. "This year was supposed to be my year to really go ot and dominate. I watched the state tournament and it was pretty hard to watch.
"There aren't too many wrestling quarterbacks."
Or even quarterbacks wrestling with the decision of whether they should play linebacker.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun