THE GRIND: North Forsyth quarterback Ben Bales up to speed in second spring
Ben Bales has enjoyed playing quarterback with Robert Craft as his head coach.
When Craft took the job at North Forsyth in 2016, he switched the Raiders from a wing-T offense to a spread attack. Bales’ job went from being focused on handoffs and blocking, with a simple pass play every so often, to being the most important in the offense, tasked with controlling the pace of the game and making the decisions that shaped a teams’ drive.
“I ended up liking it a lot more,” Bales said.
That’s not to say the transition was easy. Bales was a junior in 2016, in his first year as North’s first-string quarterback. When Craft first showed the quarterback a Hudl page with 30 plays diagrammed, full of different reads and options, Bales realized the weight of the task.
“That was kind of discouraging,” he said.
Bales relishes the cerebral, analytical side of quarterbacking, though, eating up in-depth breakdowns of the game like those seen in former NFL head coach Jon Gruden’s “QB Camp” series on ESPN. Growing up, he liked watching Michael Vick play for the Atlanta Falcons, but Bales knows his skillset is less like a dual-threat scrambler and more like a pocket passer, like current Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
So Bales dove into Hudl videos, watching Craft’s old teams at North Florida Christian to see his coach’s offense in game action. He got teammates together to work on routes and timing, and Craft brought Bales in for film sessions after school.
The best way for Bales to learn, he said, is “going through and screwing up,” and while his junior campaign was a strong one overall, he’d occasionally miss a read or throw to the wrong receiver, sometimes resulting in an interception. Those moments were frustrating for Craft, but he kept the context of Bales’ situation in mind.
“He never really crossed the line,” Bales said. “Because he knew it was my first year learning everything, and he was very understanding of that.”
Craft’s expectations will likely be stricter this year, even though the Raiders’ playbook has grown, but Bales expects that and is embracing the feeling of not having to cram a new offense into his head.
The Raiders can spend less time installing new plays and more on 7-on-7 situations and scrimmages, optimizing the offense and working on Bales’ connection with players like Nicky Dalmolin and Clayton Bardall.
And no high schooler will complain about having to do less homework.
“It feels awesome,” Bales said. “I feel like you know everything front and back.”