Myrtle Beach tailback Brandon Sinclair is on pace to become the top rusher in Mickey Wilson’s five-year tenure as head coach by the end of tonight’s game against Socastee.
By the time the season is over, Sinclair could also top two of the school’s best all-time marks, a pair of 1,800-plus seasons Tony Wallace put up in 2001 and 2002. But for as much as everyone is watching the running back’s monster yardage tally increase week to week, what it’s also doing is giving Drayton Arnold a chance to mature into the quarterback Wilson eventually hopes he will be.
The 6-foot sophomore has rebounded from a rough start to his varsity career with a pair of solid performances in the team’s last two games.
“I feel like I’m comfortable,” Arnold said. “At first, it was a little hard for our offense to get going. We finally started to have fun a little bit.
“I know what I can do. I know what our offense is capable of. The sky’s the limit for us. We need to keep pushing ourselves.”
In victories over Wilson to open region play last week and Conway the Friday before, Arnold was a combined 18-of-27 for 284 yards and three touchdowns without an interception. It was a dramatic improvement over the start to his 2013 season.
Against Richmond (N.C.) in the Seahawks’ opener, Arnold was 5-of-21 with three interceptions. In a Week 3 loss to South Florence, he was 5-of-24 with another interception. On top of that, he sustained a concussion in that game and was forced out of the team’s loss to Carolina Forest on Sept. 20.
It was nothing like what Wilson expected when he handed the sophomore the reins to the normally stout Myrtle Beach offense.
“It was a lot of things mixed in there,” Wilson said. “You have a sophomore that really hasn’t started in a varsity game. There were times where not only was he struggling, but the other people around him, too. That’s harder for him, because he’s got the ball in his hands. It makes it look worse on [the quarterback].”
Two years ago, then juniors Tyler Keane and C.J. Cooper split reps at quarterback in an attempt to lessen the blow by the loss of all-state quarterback Everett Golson. There was a slight dip in the production, but not by much. Keane – who took sole possession of the spot in 2012 – and Cooper had plenty of tested targets, not to mention an experienced offensive line.
That wasn’t the case this season for Arnold. The offense had three returning starters, and one of them (left tackle Griffin Wright) was lost for the season in that loss to Richmond. That gave Myrtle Beach some peace of mind even though Arnold has completed just 41 percent of his passes and thrown four interceptions through his first five games.
“It was frustrating at times,” Wilson said. “But when you look at the whole picture, it’s not necessarily him. It’s the entire offense learning and growing and getting experience. We never sat here and said ‘This is the quarterback’s fault.’”
If that is the case, Arnold isn’t likely going to get all of the credit when Myrtle Beach wins, either. Sinclair ran for 464 yards and six touchdowns in the last two wins, games that evened the team’s record at 3-3. Wilson believes defenses are concentrating on the talented tailback, rightfully so.
But eventually, be it this year or in the coming two seasons Arnold has left, he hopes the Seahawks’ passing game, once the bread and butter of this offense, catches up to Sinclair’s hot start.
“It’s unbelievable what he’s done so far,” Arnold said. “He’s a sophomore, and he has two more years of doing this. I think the first couple games for our offense was a little tough. Brandon leveled that off for us a little bit.”
Contact IAN GUERIN at firstname.lastname@example.org.