Auburn, Ala.—Rated a four-star prospect by Scout.com, Auburn commitment Zeke Pike is getting a head start on his college football career on the Plains by starting classes this week after graduating early from high school.
That will enable him to go through spring practice and get a jump on building a relationship with Auburn’s new offensive coordinator. He said for him the decision to start early was a no-brainer.
“It’s going to be great,” Pike said. “Just to be able to get down there, especially with a new offensive coordinator coming in, it’s pretty much an open position for all the quarterbacks that are there.
"It’s going to be a new coach and he’s not going to be familiar with any of the guys that are there so I feel like it’s open.
"I have to go in and earn it and work hard and stay hungry," Pike added. "I think I have a great chance to go in and compete to play next year. That’s what it’s about is being hungry. I think getting there early is going to help me a lot with learning the system and being comfortable with the guys around me.”
Pike recently had the chance to finish his high school playing days in an all-star setting as he participated in the U.S. Army All-American Game in San Antonio along with fellow Auburn commitment and early enrollee Shane Callahan, an offensive lineman from Colorado.
Showing up well in practices despite having to learn a different style of offense in less than a week, Pike said overall it was a tremendous week for him.
Pike is shown at practice last week in San Antonio.
“It was a great experience,” Pike said. “I had so much fun. It was definitely an experience I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Just being able to be down there and be around all of the guys who have been under the same thing you have been, been through the recruiting process and are kind of under the same pressures and circumstances, everybody is kind of similar to you. It was a lot of fun.
"I built some great relationships down there," he said. "I got to meet some people you read about but you don’t get the chance to see them. I built great relationships. It was a blessing and a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed it.”
Having just started playing quarterback in the ninth grade and only concentrating on the position for the last three years, Pike is a relative newcomer at the spot. Because of that he said it was tough for him to get into the flow of the offense for a little while in San Antonio but once he did things just fell into place.
“At the quarterback position, going into a game like that is kind of tough,” Pike said. “You’re coming in with somebody who is running their offense. For me it was a completely different offense than anything I had ever run.
"We were running a pro-style offense and I’m totally comfortable with learning that and I feel like it’s a system that fits me, but it’s different to learn it in three days," he noted. "It was a little more challenging for me than the other two quarterbacks who were under center a lot. That was probably the biggest thing for me was getting comfortable with that system.
"As the week went on I learned a lot and felt pretty comfortable. I’m confident that if that’s the system Auburn brings in I could run it.”
Becoming more comfortable at the position overall is something that Pike has noticed in the last year of his development. Time and experience are things that every quarterback needs and he said for him getting more playing time and learning more about the do’s and don’ts at the position have made him a better player.
“I just feel a lot more comfortable,” Pike said. “I have really only been playing quarterback since my freshman year. I have learned so much over the last couple of years.
"Over the last couple of weeks and being down at the U.S. Army game, and from last year to this year, I have become a better quarterback. I am a better game manager. I make smarter decisions.
"At the beginning of being a quarterback I always wanted to make the big play," Pike said. "I always wanted to throw the bomb and hit the TD on the first throw. I’m beginning to understand that managing the game is a lot more important than scoring a touchdown on one play. That’s something I have become better at and I need to continue to get better at to play on this level.”
Pike will join an Auburn team heading into the offseason with momentum after a decisive win over Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. As someone who has watched the Tigers closely all season, Pike said it was great to see the team turn it loose and play like it was capable.
“It was great,” Pike said. “They had some adversity with some guys that weren’t able to play, but they faced it well. That’s something that Auburn is really good with, facing adversity. We’ve had it the last couple of years and we kind of rise up to the challenge.
"I was really happy Auburn ended the way they did. Now it’s about going to work and getting ready to have a great season next year and try to make another run for the national championship. We want to keep it in Alabama for another year, just the right school in Alabama.”
After getting adjusted to his college schedule and going through winter workouts, the big quarterback hopes to make some noise in spring practice.
With Gene Chizik hiring a defensive coordinator this week, the remaining vacancy is for the man who will be Pike's position coach as well as the offensive coordinator. Pike said he isn't worried about the head coach making a good hire.
“I’m beyond confident in Coach Chizik,” Pike said. “I chose Auburn for Auburn. You see a lot of guys that will de-commit when somebody leaves. I had the pleasure of being recruited by Coach (Gus) Malzahn and I have built a great relationship with him that will last me the rest of my life and I still talk to him. I know he’s going to do great things at Arkansas State, but I’m so confident in Coach Chizik and I know he’s going to bring in the best guy for the job.
"He’s going to bring in somebody that fits our personnel and what we have, but also fits the coaching staff, and somebody that is a family man. He’ll be a great person with high character. I’m confident in Coach Chizik and I have no doubt in my mind that he’s going to bring in the best guy for the job.”
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