Sophomore Grimes prepared for first-career start
Isiah Grimes admits an injury is not the way he would have liked to become the starting quarterback for the Grand Valley State University football team. The sophomore, however, also said he will be embracing the opportunity when the undefeated and fourth-ranked Lakers take on Ohio Dominican University Saturday night at Lubbers Stadium. He’ll replace pre-season All-American Heath Parling, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL early in last week’s 28-0 victory at Tiffin University.
“I’m happy for myself, getting the opportunity, but I’m disappointed for Heath that he had to go out like this,” said Grimes, who completed 10-of-15 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns.
While Parling joins a long list of Lakers on the injury report — including junior tailback Hersey Jackson, senior tailback Norman Shuford and junior safety Erik Thompson — GVSU head coach Matt Mitchell said the quarterback’s injury will be the toughest to overcome.
“It’s different when it’s the quarterback,” said Mitchell, who is employing his third different starter at the position in three seasons. “I think it’s the most important position in sports.”
Having Grimes in reserve, however, is a luxury not often afforded to other college football programs. Grimes has spent three years in Mitchell’s system and earned all-state honorable mention accolades in high school at South Haven High School. In addition, Grimes appeared in seven games as a reserve in 2011, throwing for 227 yards and a touchdown.
“You don’t ever want to look at the rest of the team and your coaching staff, and just raise your arms up in the air and say ‘Oh well. We’re done because of one guy,’” Mitchell said. “That’s part of my job, making sure that we do a good job of recruiting, that we have depth so when somebody does get injured, we can have somebody step in.”
The strong-armed Grimes said he is confident he can replace both Parling’s productivity and success as a starter.
“We’ve got a real experienced offense, offensive line and skill positions,” Grimes said. “So I feel like I should be able to just come in and pick up where we left off. “As long as I’m putting the ball where it needs to be, then there shouldn’t be any difference in the two at all,” he added.
Mitchell said Grimes is easing into a rhythm with the starting offense this week after spending all season working with the second-string team. Small things, such as Grimes’ release point, timing and receiving snaps, all will take time to mesh with the first-team offense, he said.
“Personally, I don’t think we’re really going to skip a beat on offense,” said senior wide receiver Charles Johnson. “I mean, it’s unfortunate that Heath got hurt, but Grimes has been practicing and doing everything—taking reps—same as Heath had all year.”
With his previous experience and talent, Johnson said Grimes would just need the support of his teammates to be successful on Saturday.
“We’re going to all pump him up and keep him confident,” said Johnson, who was on the receiving end of one of Grimes’ two touchdown passes against Tiffin. “That’s our biggest thing. I’m telling other players that we need to keep him confident.”
“He’s going to feel some pressures,” Mitchell said. “But, at the quarterback position, if you’re analytical, it can kill you. Sometimes you just have to drop back, trust your instincts and throw the ball.”