DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- Glenbard West coach Chad Hetlet had an inkling last summer Mark Hiben would emerge as one of the state’s elite wide receivers as a senior, and Hiben went on to break Illinois’ single-game receiving record.
A year later, Hetlet has another feeling about one of his players. At Saturday’s Downers Grove South’s 7-on-7 passing competition, Hetlet forecasted a breakout season for senior quarterback Justice Odom.
“I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” Hetlet said. “I think he could end up being one of the better quarterbacks in the state this year.”
Like Hiben last year, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Odom has given Hetlet optimism with his play during the summer. While Hetlet has always been high on Odom as an athlete, Odom has proven to his coach he’s a reliable passer this summer as well.
“In 7 on 7, he’s throwing the ball really well,” said Hetlet, whose team went 10-2 last season. “He’s zipping it in there. His zip on the ball and accuracy has improved. His reads have improved. I think he’s matured physically as a quarterback.”
Odom saw almost all of his playing time last season at wide receiver and defensive back. With the graduation of Glenbard West’s two starting quarterbacks last season, Odom won the job this summer.
Odom is ready to prove himself.
“Coach Hetlet has put me in a position to do what I do best,” said Odom, who competed at state track last year. “When I was a sophomore, I was seen as more of a rushing quarterback. I think I can pass the ball. I would like to show people I can pass the ball."
With Odom’s improved arm to go along with his already high-level speed and quickness, Hetlet believed his offense could have a different look this season.
“I think with his ability to run and throw and read and be an option quarterback, it allows us to do more with what we do offensively,” Hetlet said. “We’ve always been a traditional kind of pound-the-ball, play-action type of offense. We’re not saying we’re not that team, but we’re going to be a team that can spread you out with our athletes who have speed and our quarterback.
“For what we do, he’s going to put the ball where we need it. If it’s not there, he’s going to pull it down and run it. He’s a great running back. We haven’t had a kid who really has been a dual threat in our offense. I think it adds an interesting element to what we do this year.”
Odom does have big plans for his one year at quarterback.
“I would like to go undefeated and win a state title,” said Odom, who is being recruited by Navy and Toledo, among others. “The last time we won a state title is way back . It was a long time ago."