Meadow Bridge – The odds of Dustin Adkins becoming a prolific passer during his time at Meadow Bridge High School were low – very low.
For years the Wildcats’ bread and butter was a strong ground attack guided by a stable of all-state running backs.
Double digit passing attempts just weren’t the Meadow Bridge way.
Adkins has not only become a prolific passer, he has completely changed the perception of passing down in Wildcat country.
Last year, Adkins made believers out of the harshest sceptics with a banner season that was shortened to eight games because of COVID restrictions.
In his junior campaign, Adkins threw for nearly 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns, with his best performance coming in a 40-14 thrashing of Van. Against the Bulldogs, Adkins threw for a school-record 285 yards and six touchdowns.
He would conclude the season with a 261-yard game against Gilmer County and threw just two interceptions over his final five games.
It goes without saying that there is plenty of anticipation in Meadow Bridge for their gunslinger’s senior season.
However, that optimism was nowhere to be found when Adkins entered high school, even though he had played quarterback in middle school.
“My freshman year when I came up I was 187 or 188 pounds and played fullback for the first couple of weeks,” Adkins recalled. “I got switched over to quarterback at halftime of our only JV game of the season.”
The switch to quarterback came along with an attitude change and some newfound maturity for Adkins.
“As a freshman when I came in I really didn’t have the attitude that I would ever be a big presence on this football team. As the season went on, I realized that was not the right attitude to have,” Adkins said. “I realized I need to be a guy that was there for his teammates. I feel like having the attitude to work hard is what made the difference.”
Meadow Bridge head coach Dwayne Reichard had the foresight to see that a system change might be needed before Adkins and his fellow middle school teammates made their way to high school.
“When Dustin was a middle schooler we were still in our power-I stuff. At the same time we were looking at that group of kids coming up for the next few years. We were thinking by size this was the route we might have to go,” Reichard said, “I never really knew if he could be that guy at quarterback. He was a little shorter than you typical spread-type guys, but I knew he was an athlete. I knew we would find some place for him to play. At halftime of that JV game his freshman year we moved him to quarterback and it has kinda been his niche ever since.”
A year later, Adkins took over as the starting quarterback full-time, giving the Wildcats a strong dual-threat option to complement their running game.
“Coming into his sophomore year, we were looking at a few different guys. I thought for that time period and years to come that he was our choice. It has developed into something that has really worked for us,” Reichard said.
“In middle school we had a spread or air-raid style of offense, but I didn’t think going forward that it would carry over to high school,” Adkins said. “I absolutely love this offense. It’s nice to come out as a quarterback and have some really good receivers who can make some big plays for you. It is good to be able to get down the field quickly when you need to. It keeps the linebackers and press coverage off the receivers where they don’t know what we are going to do.”
An ankle injury during his sophomore season hampered Adkins forcing Reichard to go to a more pro-style, pocket passing game last year.
This season Adkins will likely return to more of a dual-threat weapon.
“As a sophomore he was more of a dual-threat guy. Last year he was more of a pocket passer. Part of that was our desire to keep him healthy. We knew as a sophomore he got a little banged up,” Reichard said. “This year he will go back to being more of a dual-threat type guy. I thought overall our offense was more threatening two years ago. A lot of teams blitzed us last year because we were more of a passing team. This year we are focusing more on the run game and we will definitely have a quarterback in there to create a different threat.”
Although Meadow Bridge lost a couple of key weapons, Adkins is excited about his receiving core this season.
“I think we will be a tough team to read. We have a couple of seniors coming up, Rian Cooper and James McClure. This will be Ryan’s fourth year starting and James’ third. We played middle school together and I feel like we have a nice connection with each other,” Adkins said. “We also have a couple of juniors, Seaton Mullins and Connor Mullins. Seaton is 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds. He will give us a nice presence over the top.”
The Wildcats are home for the season opener against Van, Aug. 26 at Frank Arritt Stadium.