Kevin Sousa has always thought of himself as a quarterback.
He came out of Lake Nona High School in Orlando, Fla., in 2011 as a quarterback — the No. 42 quarterback in the country, according to Scout.com — but ever since he arrived in Winston-Salem that fall, it seemed like that wasn’t going to happen.
He had surgery before the 2011 season began and redshirted before seeing action in just two games in 2012, and not throwing a pass in either one. Former coach Jim Grobe and his staff liked Sousa’s athleticism and speed, but they wanted to fix his throwing motion. That proved to be easier said than done, and so Sousa went to Grobe and asked if he could switch positions.
"I made that switch to receiver, I asked them if I could switch to receiver," Sousa said, "because I just wanted to help the team out and be out on the field in any way that I could."
He didn’t catch any passes last year, but with the (now-graduated) Michael Campanaro catching most of the passes from the (now-graduated) Tanner Price, there’s a chance for others to step up.
And in new head coach Dave Clawson, there’s a new opportunity for Sousa to be a quarterback again.
Sousa, competing against last year’s backup Tyler Cameron, proved he might just have what it takes as the redshirt junior completed 16 of his 32 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown in the Wake Forest spring game. He also ran for 76 yards on nine carries.
It wasn’t that long ago that Sousa was in the wide receiver meeting room with Jared Crump, who had a nice spring game of his own with six catches for 85 yards.
"He’s made a lot (of progress)," Crump said. "He kind of switched positions a little bit, but he’s really getting back into the groove and grasping the offense, and he’s doing good things out there."
And the position switch paid off in more ways than one.
"Making that switch to receiver helped a lot, just learning the defenses and seeing what the receivers go through," Sousa said. "It was a building block for me and I’m glad that all happened. I know everything happens for a reason and I wasn’t stressing it. I just kept trying to work hard and be as positive as I can be."
But it certainly had its drawbacks, too. Quarterbacks have to work every day on their craft. Grobe and his staff’s attempts to change Sousa’s mechanics were working some at first, Sousa said. But then the switch to wide receiver meant all of that effort went out the window.
"I actually lost my mechanics that I had when I made that switch to receiver. I’ve been working on it, trying to get it back," Sousa said. "I’m not fully there but I’m progressing every day and I’m going to keep working hard."
Clawson doesn’t want him to try too hard, though.
After all, at 21 years old, there’s only so much about his throwing motion he can change.
"We’re going to coach him, but he’s 21, 22 years old. That’s how he throws the ball," Clawson said. "I think at this point, you’re better off working with him and trying to make little tweaks rather than trying to make any major overhauls."
Offensive coordinator Warren Ruggerio just wants Sousa to go out there and play without thinking about mechanics, and that’s what he’s trying to do.
Now, his motion is much more like it was in high school.
"It’s more comfortable for me and just trying to get that elbow high with a high release. That’s really what I’ve been working on," Sousa said. "They’re just letting us go out there and play, and I feel real comfortable with that. I appreciate Coach Ruggerio, because he stresses just to go out there and run the offense, and I’ve been trying to do that as best as I can."
Sousa might end up winning the job by default, even though Clawson has stressed all spring — and continues to stress — that the incoming true freshmen are going to get the chance to compete for the job.
What he got out of Sousa in the spring game was likely the best he can hope for this coming season as he rebuilds this Wake Forest program from the quarterback spot — a mixed bag.
"He made plays. We just can’t turn the ball over," Clawson said. "He made some big-time plays with his feet. He made some nice throws. Those are the positives. You can’t have the picks. His highs were high and his lows were low."
Cameron didn’t show much to wrest the early lead for the job away from Sousa, completing just 9-of-26 passes.
But that doesn’t mean Sousa is going to stop working:
"I’ve just got to come in in the summer and work hard and come back and show them that I’m more consistent and accurate with my passes and just run the offense."