"I started the last six games of my freshman season when Tre Polk got hurt," Gardner Minshew said. "I learned a lot from Tre and just dove in. I started watching a ton of film so I could recognize defenses. I guess I did a decent job at that this season but I know I can do better."
Minshew passed for over 3, 100 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading Brandon to the State Championship game against South Panola. The Bulldogs were inside the Tiger's 20-yard line to go in for the winning score but Gardner was intercepted in the end zone on the last play of the game.
"It was a great ride. We came up just short. We are looking to repeat that magic this year. We saw what it takes to get there and everybody bought in even more. Everyone is working that much harder and doing everything a little bit more to be better prepared. It was a great experience last season. Our community and fan base bought all in. It was really a fun ride. We just want to take the next step next season."
Coach Lance Pogue for South Panola made sure to have a few words with Gardner after the game.
"He just told me that I was a heck of a quarterback and that I would win one before I left here. That meant a lot to me. I was so down about the game but he kept it in perspective for me."
The 2012 Jackson TD Player of the Year knows there are a few things he needs to improve on to take his game to the next level.
"I need to definitely work on my speed. I need to work on my footwork. We are brining in several new receivers so we are going to have to work on our chemistry this off season and just get our timing down. That is really the biggest thing I am concentrating on this off season. I want to get my timing down with all of the new receivers we have coming up. If I do that I will be able to cut down on my interceptions and sacks I gave up last season."
Which colleges are showing the most interest right now?
"I visited Ole Miss this past weekend and I went to the Junior Day at MSU earlier this month. I plan on going back to Ole Miss' Elite Junior Day in April. I want to go check their spring game as well and also check out MSU's spring game. I am also going over to Alabama's Junior Day."
What did Minshew want to learn about Ole Miss while on the trip?
"I got a chance to sit down and watch a lot of film with coach (Dan) Werner and (Hugh) Freeze. I really learned their offensive style. It really matches up to our offense here at Brandon. It's just crazy how similar they are. That was my first time to really sit down and talk to coach Werner and that was great. I also got a chance to tour their campus. I went over there for their 7-on-7 camp last summer and went to the Texas game in the fall but that was my first so called recruiting trip to Ole Miss."
What stood out about Ole Miss the most?
"It was great being able to sit down and really get to know coach Werner. We watched a lot of their film and our film at Brandon. He critiqued me and gave me some pointers to help me out from here on out. They really treated me right and it was just a great experience. Me and coach Werner just clicked."
What did he learn about State during their Junior Day?
"We toured the new football facility. It is top notch, amazing. I learned a lot about their academics as well which is very important. I have been over for a couple of their games in the fall. I saw the Tennessee and Texas A&M games."
What stands out about MSU the most?
"They are definitely on the rise. They are trying to make improvements. They are adding on to their stadium and football facilities. They are all in. They are doing everything they can do to be SEC champs one day. They are getting to where they need to be."
Alabama is also in the picture.
"I went to their spring practice last year and went over there for a couple of games. I saw them play MSU and Texas A&M. They really want me to talk to their quarterback coach and learn about their offense."
Did Minshew grow up rooting for any one team?
"My dad went to Milsaps and my mom went to Georgia State and somehow I grew up a Florida Gator fan because of Tim Tebow. I guess I am kind of an odd ball around here. Everybody around here likes Ole Miss or MSU but I liked the Gators."
Yancy Porter is the Mississippi Scout for Scout.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org