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By JOEL COLEMAN
To give or to take?
That is the question Starkville Academy quarterback Drew Pellum has to ask himself over and over again each Friday night.
As the conductor of the Volunteers' triple-option attack that has torn apart opposing defenses all year long, Pellum has become masterful when it comes to making the right decisions to ensure the best possible outcomes for SA.
Using their offensive style, the Vols have averaged scoring more than 30 points per game this season. More importantly, SA is having its best season since a state championship campaign in 2005, compiling an 8-1 overall record and 3-1 mark in conference play so far this year.
Though no one player can claim full credit for pushing the Vols to their current level of success, it's hard to imagine SA being in its current situation without the play of their emerging junior signal-caller.
"(Pellum) has done really good," said Vols senior fullback Ryan Mann. "He's actually even done a little better than I thought he would. He handles the offense, makes reads at the line of scrimmage, checks and gets us in positions for big plays.
"He's just stepped up and done a great job."
If anyone can vouch for Pellum's success, it's Mann.
As another spoke in SA's triple-option wheel, Mann has rode Pellum's decision-making ability and put together an impressive year for himself.
Through nine games, Mann has rushed for 944 yards and a team-leading 13 touchdowns on the ground, virtually none of which would be possible if not for what Pellum does under center.
"When (defensive) ends don't do their jobs and there's a big hole for me, (Pellum) gives (the ball) to me," said Mann. "When the ends do squeeze, he pulls it and gets his yards."
With a keen eye and quick mind, Pellum seemingly always knows when to keep the ball in his own hands.
Going that route, Pellum has gained 689 yards rushing himself this season, finding the end zone nine times on the ground.
As for passing? Pellum can do that too when needed, throwing for 351 yards and five scores.
While Pellum has made everything look so easy all year long, he says that simply hasn't always been the case.
Pellum admitted to there being an adjustment period for him after taking over the quarterback position after the graduation of Kyle Henson.
"It all took a little while to get used to," said Pellum, who played running back and cornerback prior to this season. "Just the fast pace of everything.
"But pretty much, the linemen have done a great job and made it easy for me. (Mann) has done a great job busting holes. The defense has made their stops. The wide receivers have caught passes. They've just all made it easy on me."
By Pellum's life being made easy, things have gone smoother for SA head coach Jeff Terrill as well.
Terrill says his coaching style has always been one that depends on having a strong presence under center.
"My many years of coaching, when people sit down and we talk football and talk building programs...the first thing I've always looked for, even when I was coaching in college, was a quarterback," said Terrill. "That's number one. Without that, it's a struggle."
Fortunately for Terrill, Pellum has fit the bill and become a superb quarterback.
"I think it's obvious as far as running the option and the offense that we run and all that we do, Drew just works hard at it every week," said Terrill. "He continues to get better. Game after game, he's not only running the option, but he's making good decisions, he's changing the play at the line of scrimmage, he's going the opposite directions and he's getting us in good positions."
Pellum illustrated as much last Friday night in Louisville against Winston Academy. Facing the Patriots, Pellum rushed for 144 yards and three touchdowns, plus passed for 45 yards and a pair of scores in a 55-12 SA win.
Though Pellum found the end zone twice through the air against Winston, ironically it's the passing game that Terrill believes his quarterback has the most room for improvement.
"We laughed about it (against Winston), because he only threw it twice, but we scored twice," said Terrill. "That's what an option team wants to do.
"But we think by his senior campaign that he will throw the ball even better than he does now. He tends to drop his elbow and the nose of the ball falls, so he struggles with some passes, but it has been amazing. I know we don't throw it much, but when we've had to have it, boy he's come through. Still, we'll work really hard on that in the offseason and in the summer and hopefully, we'll see a better passing game next fall."
If anyone thinks Pellum might have a yearning to air the ball out a little more this year, think again.
Pellum says he's perfectly content with his role and the things he's expected to do in SA's offense.
"I love how we're doing it," said Pellum. "I love the triple-option. I get to run some and I get to throw enough. It's fine with me. I really love it."
It's a good thing Pellum likes where and how he fits in the Vols' picture.
After all, there's still plenty of football left to play this year, plus a senior season to anticipate.
Perhaps no one is as excited about those truths than Terrill, who is looking forward to quite a few more games full of Pellum giving, taking or throwing the ball.
"There's no doubt about it, (Pellum) is a fun young man to coach," said Terrill. "Certainly, he gives us excitement for the future."