CONWAY, SC – Coastal Carolina centerfielder Parker Chavers picked up his third national honor as D1Baseball.com placed him on its Freshman All-American second team, it was announced today.
Previously, the Montgomery, Ala., native and star at LAMP,was named Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American and second team Perfect Game/Rawlings Freshman All-American. Chavers was additionally voted second team All-Sun Belt as well as being named to the Sun Belt and NCAA Conway Regional All-Tournament teams in his rookie campaign with the Chanticleers.
Chavers (pictured right) posted a team-best .323 batting average in 2018 while ranking second on the team in hits (70), second in on base percentage (.435), third in doubles (15), fourth in home runs (7), fourth in runs scored (48) and four in walks (39). His batting average ranked seventh-best in the Sun Belt while his hits ranked eighth, his on base percentage ranked ninth and his walks ranked ninth. In addition to his offensive excellence, Chavers made just one error (his final chance at the Sun Belt Championship) and made numerous highlight-reel catches in centerfield, including one that was featured on ESPN’s Top Plays.
He additionally led the team in batting in Sun Belt games (.321) and he posted an impressive .442 on base percentage versus league opponents.
Chavers was named Sun Belt All-Tournament as he was 2-for-4 with two RBI in the championship game and posted an impressive .563 batting average in the tourney with seven RBI, thanks to a grand slam. He had a season-high four hits in first win over South Alabama while tying season high with four RBI in the win. The following week, he was voted to the NCAA Conway Regional All-Tournament team as had at least one hit and one RBI in each if his three games. Overall, he batted .454 (5-for-11) with three RBI, two runs scored, a double, two walks and added a highlight-reel catch.
Chavers had two reached base streaks (by hit/walk/hit by pitch) of 15 games this season, including each of his last 15 games played and 30 of his last 31. In fact, Chavers had a hit in 20-of-his-last-23 games and batted .351 (26-for-74) over the span with 12 runs, 19 RBI, five doubles, three home runs and 10 walks.
At the time, Andrew Zow said he never thought about transferring.
But the mindset of a college athlete is a little different these days and the former University of Alabama quarterback isn’t sure how he would react if he wasn’t the starting quarterback.
“I think it’s the time, the nature of the position, that now you think ‘I’m a five-star guy because I’ve been labeled as one of the best players in the country, if I go to a place and I’m not the starter after year one … I’m expected to be on the field.’ The expectations for these kids to go in and start at a Division I-A school is unheard of. To do it (as a true freshman) is rare.
“When I was in school, I had an opportunity to play at a great university and then went through a quarterback battle and I wasn’t going to leave, whether I was the guy or not. I felt like I was getting a great education, I was going to get my opportunity. God had blessed me to be at the University of Alabama and for me to finish well. And I did that. To ever leave? No, but this is the nature of the beast right now. You’ve got so many guys that are expected to be the guy. And parents are expecting their kids to play. And if they’re not, they’re going to leave and try to be the guy as soon as they can. If that’s somewhere else, they’ll do that.”
The battle for the starting quarterback position at Alabama this fall is expected to be the toughest Nick Saban has ever faced in his 12 years in Tuscaloosa. Jalen Hurts took over as the starter in the second game of the 2016 season and has been there ever since, but it was Tua Tagovailoa who rescued the Tide in the second half of the College Football Playoff National Championship Game and led the squad to an overtime victory over Georgia as Hurts watched from the sideline.
Zow has his own opinion regarding the starter that he shared recently on “River Region Sports” on Tallassee’s WTLS-FM 106.5, and while the Crimson Tide has faced difficult decisions before at quarterback, Zow has first-hand experience at handling a quarterback controversy.
Saban had to decide between AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims in the early stages of 2011; block out the fans’ advice concerning Jake Coker and Blake Sims in 2014; waffle briefly between Coker and Cooper Bateman in 2015; and rotate among four candidates before going with Hurts and Blake Barnett in the 2016 season opener, then settling on Hurts for the rest of the season.
None of those, however, compare to the soap opera associated with the last real quarterback controversy involving Zow and backup Tyler Watts in 2000 and 2001. Zow had helped his team to the 1999 Southeastern Conference title and the school’s first Bowl Championship Series appearance in the Orange Bowl, but it was followed by a dismal 3-8 season and the firing of head coach Mike DuBose in 2000.
By 2001, new coach Dennis Franchione favored Watts over Zow and the wheels were coming off in a 3-5 start before Watts went down with an injury. Enter Zow, the forgotten senior who led the Tide to a hard-fought win over Mississippi State, a stunning upset at Auburn, a rain-soaked regular season finale with Southern Mississippi and a one-point win over Iowa State in the Independence Bowl, finishing as the school’s career leader in virtually every passing category (he has since been passed by three others).
“They really are (the best moments),” Zow said of the 2001 finish. “I tell people all the time there are things that, if I could have done different, I would have. But the way my career ended at the University of Alabama was storybook.”
That’s why he doesn’t believe Hurts or Tagovailoa should transfer if they’re not named the starter.
“I did talk with Jalen a couple of times,” Zow said. “And he’s his own man. I really can’t make a decision for him or for anyone. But my advice is always to see what happens.
“I think getting an education from the University of Alabama is great. I think it’s at the top of the list of schools in the country. But it’s hard when you’re expected to be the guy, you’re expected to do all these great things and the pressure to be that guy is tough. I wouldn’t advise guys to leave; my advice is to stick it out, be a teammate and be great at it.”
On the other hand, he understands his advice may be dated. The times are definitely changing toward play-or-transfer athletes.
“I wouldn’t be the guy who tells a guy if you’re not the guy, then leave,” Zow said. “I would like for guys to stick it out a little more because you made a commitment. At the same time, you’ve got coaches who sort of do the same thing so I guess you can play both sides of the fence. ‘Coach told me he was going to be my coach,’ then somebody offers him $20 million and he’s gone. You have to look at both sides. I would say everybody has their own individual situation they may have to look at and go with.
“I just love the fact that some guys stick it out and battle and see what happens. But with these two guys, Tua and Jalen, we’ll see one of these guys take the opportunity to leave if they’re not the guy. And who can blame them now? That’s where society is.”
Zow started his own business after graduating from Alabama, but got back into coaching in the late 2000s at his alma mater, Union County, before returning to the Birmingham area, first as an assistant at Oak Mountain and later as the head coach at Montevallo and now Calera, where he is preparing for his third season.
That perspective now puts him on the other side of issues involving starters and their backups, much like the one Saban faced in 2017 with Hurts and Tagovailoa.
“He made a good decision in the national championship game because you needed a spark,” Zow said. “I don’t think Jalen was the reason they needed a spark. If you look back at the opportunities they had, I think you needed to open up your playbook a little more. I think the body of work that Jalen has done, I think he’s a guy that needs that opportunity. I don’t pull a guy like that. But Coach Saban made a decision to open it back up (this past spring) and every offseason is going to be like that.
“For me as a player, I want a decision as well. I would like to know am I the guy or am I not the guy. If I’m not the guy, let this guy go out there and play ball. That was my statement to Coach DuBose after the 1999 season. But with these two guys and the way things are now, you’ve got a guy who can throw it and a guy who’s battle tested. My personal feeling is Jalen is the guy but at the same time Tua goes in and he lets the ball go. And Jalen is getting better at that. He has some things he needs to work on.”
In either case, Zow warned, negotiating through a difficult quarterback battle can be distracting for all sides. It’s important that the coaches – as well as the quarterbacks – express confidence in all the candidates.
“As a coach, you’ve got to let these guys know you’re in their corner,” he said. “I think as a player, I knew I could play better if I knew that I had the coach and the team behind me regardless of if I’m the guy or not. So both guys need to have that feeling of confidence from the coaches and the players that, hey, we believe in both of you, go battle it out because only one of you can play. Like some people said back in the day, if you’ve got two quarterbacks, you don’t have one. But at the same time, Coach Saban will make great decisions. His psyche is above all else when it comes to understanding the mental side of the game. It’ll be interesting to see how we move forward.
“The bottom line is let those guys know we have confidence in you. If you do, those guys will play well regardless of who’s out there; but if they feel like you don’t, they’re going to play bad regardless of who’s out there because they’re going to look over their shoulder and wonder if I’m going to get pulled. I was like that at times. I was worried if I was going to get pulled if I made a mistake, then I would go out there and make the mistake that I was trying not to make.”
And as Zow proved in 2001, the player who isn’t named the starting quarterback has to realize he’s just one injury – sometimes, just one mistake — away from being the guy.
“You are definitely one play away,” Zow said. “You just never know. You have to stay focused and prepare yourself as a starter every week. Be ready to perform. You can’t let that opportunity pass you by because you never know when it’ll come back by.
“It’s a tough situation. The hardest jobs in the state of Alabama are head coach and quarterback at the University of Alabama.”
Bradley Westhauser has an easy time transitioning from football to soccer by simply embracing the season. If it’s fall, he’s concentrating on football; if it’s spring, he’s into soccer.
“I kind of change moods,” he said. “When it’s football season, I’m going to watch just football. When football is over, I watch soccer. Right now, I’m watching World Cup.”
The Montgomery Academy senior has had to think about both sports in recent weeks. He’s participating in voluntary workouts with his football teammates while trying to remain focused on the upcoming Alabama All-Stars Sports Week soccer game that will be held on July 17 at the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex at 7 p.m.
“There’s two or three guys on our team that are also capable of being an all-star, so just earning it is a great honor,” he said. “I was a little surprised (coach Jonathan Trinh) nominated me. I’ve had a couple of friends go and play in it. Honestly, just to play my best and have an awesome experience is what I want. I couldn’t ask for anything more than to be on the all-star team.”
Westhauser’s nomination made perfect sense to football coach Gary Nelson, who is working his 5-foot-10, 165-pound senior at cornerback and tailback in addition to his normal role as placekicker.
“The great thing about him is that while he’s gotten on the field to kick, he has approached every day as if he was about to go out and be the guy at running back or corner and he’s done that for the two years he’s been the kicker,” Nelson said. “I think as we approach his senior year, he is going to be an asset for us at those two positions in addition to being the kicker. And it’s because of his work ethic.
“I’m super proud of him for getting to be a soccer all-star but I’m also excited to see what he can become as a football player this year. I’m expecting big things out of him.”
Westhauser has an extensive background in soccer, starting when he was in kindergarten, “but I always wanted to play football. I came here in middle school and my mom was like, ‘OK, you can play football.’
“I started kicking the football in 10th grade. I thought that when I first started kicking, ‘it’s going to be just like soccer,’ but you start to realize it’s not really the same. You have to develop certain techniques. It was a weird transition, but I got used to it so now I enjoy both of them.”
The past two seasons, he has worked during the summer with former Auburn University punter Steven Clark, working on technique and building leg strength. As a result, he will attend Kohl’s National Elite Camp in Whitewater, Wisc., just two days after his appearance at Alabama All-Stars Sports Week.
In soccer, he was prolific at scoring as well, playing club soccer as he grew up and alternating between forward and midfielder.
“When I came here, Coach (Wilfredo) Navidad said, ‘Hey, you’re really fast and we lost a lot of seniors from the previous year and I’m going to need you to play defense because we need people who can run down the (opposing) forwards,’” Westhauser said. “I started playing defense here and I’ve stuck with it.
“When I was first put on defense, I was kind of bummed but when you step back you realize that, hey, I’m getting to play varsity soccer in the ninth grade, take advantage of the opportunity.”
His ability as a defender landed him a spot on the all-star soccer team, reserved for the top juniors in the state. Next year, he hopes to earn a scholarship to play collegiately.
“Primarily, I want to play football, but if I got the opportunity to play soccer I’d probably take it,” he said. “I’m interested in going into the military so I’m applying to all the service academies. My dad went to the Air Force Academy and we’re a big military family, so I’ve always thought that was an awesome career for me to join. I really like the discipline of the military and when you look at the service academies and see all the opportunities they have, it’s just somewhere I really want to be.”