Football

Well-traveled Cody Keith not feeling pressure as Charlotte 49ers QB

Portrait taken on March 31, 2016 of Charlotte 49ers quarterback Cody Keith, a transfer from East Carolina and former player at Myers Park and South Mecklenburg high schools.
Portrait taken on March 31, 2016 of Charlotte 49ers quarterback Cody Keith, a transfer from East Carolina and former player at Myers Park and South Mecklenburg high schools. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte 49ers quarterback Cody Keith knows he has a lot to learn during his first spring practices with his new teammates.

But Keith also knows that the 2016 season will be his last chance to get on the football field, and to show what made him a highly-ranked recruit just six years ago.

Keith, a Charlotte native who played at Myers Park and South Mecklenburg, is one of five players battling to be the starter when the 49ers’ fall practices begin in August.

“It’s been really exciting so far,” the 24-year-old Keith said Thursday. “Yeah, it’s a new playbook, and it’s a lot different than what I’m used to. There’s some new stuff I’ve got to learn, and some new stuff I’ve got to do well.

“But that’s what’s so exciting about it – this is my last year, my last opportunity, so I can go out with no pressure and just play.”

Keith was the backup quarterback at Myers Park in 2007. He transferred to South Mecklenburg over the summer, then led the Sabres to the N.C. 4A semifinals.

But Keith’s offensive numbers – just over 1,000 passing yards and 11 touchdowns at South Meck – didn’t paint a pretty picture. It wasn’t until a pair of cross-country moves that he started getting attention from college recruiters.

Keith threw for 2,212 yards and 21 touchdowns and ran for 10 more with Pasadena, Calif.’s Maranatha High in 2009, then set six state records in passing for 3,840 yards and 39 TDs in leading Cheshire (Conn.) Academy to the New England prep school title in 2010.

Ranked a four-star recruit by ESPN.com, Keith accepted an offer from East Carolina, who had a new coach (Ruffin McNeill) and an offensive coordinator (Lincoln Riley) whose “Air Raid”-style offense would set school passing and total offense records nearly every year.

Yet Keith had very little to do with setting those records, as injuries – ankle in 2011, elbow in late 2013 and 2014, and foot in 2015 – and circumstances kept him on the sidelines for all but three games.

“East Carolina really didn’t work out the way that I wanted it to, obviously,” Keith said. “I had Tommy John surgery (in 2013), and that was tough. I was behind Shane Carden, who ended up leading the country in passing for a while.

“It really didn’t go down the way I wanted to, but you learn from those experiences and you grow from those experiences.”

It’s that experience – the years of practices and game-tape study – that made Keith an attractive “get” for Charlotte coach Brad Lambert.

“The one advantage Cody has is that he’s seen a lot of different defenses,” Lambert said. “There’s nothing like being out there practicing, and getting a lot of reps.

“He brings some talent, but the main thing is his age. When he expressed an interest in coming in, I was all for it … because things don’t bother him.”

Note

Weather messes with schedule: Because of the weather forecast this week – a high chance of rain – Lambert had to keep Charlotte’s practice schedule flexible.

Originally scheduled to practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the 49ers bumped up their schedule to hold a full-pads workout Tuesday and meetings indoors Thursday.

Lambert said that, depending on the weather, the team may hold a light workout in Richardson Stadium on Friday.

Weather messes with schedule

Because of the weather forecast this week – a high chance of rain – Lambert had to keep Charlotte’s practice schedule flexible.

Originally scheduled to practice Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the 49ers bumped up their schedule to hold a full-pads workout Tuesday and meetings indoors Thursday.

Lambert said that, depending on the weather, the team may hold a light workout in Richardson Stadium on Friday.

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