Cole Hodge is sort of an athletic prodigy in Kentucky, who has been making headlines for almost a decade even though he hasn’t even started his senior year in high school yet.
Hodge starred as a point guard on the AAU basketball circuit in his early teens and was so talented he made the varsity squad at Christian Academy of Louisville as an eighth grader. On the football field, Hodge was offensive MVP for two straight years in the prestigious Kentucky Future Stars 7th graders game — the first time as a sixth grader — while playing quarterback.
Although Hodge has continued to excel on the court, it’s at quarterback on the football field he’s developed into a major college prospect. Schools including Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Army, Ball State, Charlotte, Central Michigan, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Southern, Liberty, Marshall, Memphis, Miami of Ohio, Alabama-Birmingham and Western Michigan have offered scholarships to the 6-foot-2, 193-pound quarterback. But it’s East Carolina that won the recruiting battle for Hodge, securing a verbal commitment from him on June 13 for its recruiting Class of 2024.
“He really connected with their coaching staff,” Hodge’s Christian Academy coach Hunter Cantwell said. “He really enjoyed the area every time he took a visit. He was very positive about the campus and the school culture and just that area of North Carolina. All the pieces fell into place, and he just felt like that was where he needed to be.”
Cantwell, a former University of Louisville and NFL quarterback himself, first encountered the Hodge family in the middle of Cole’s eighth-grade year. The family included Cole’s younger brother, Connor, who is also a talented basketball and football player.
Cole Hodge had already made an impression on Cantwell playing for the middle school football team. But it was when Hodge earned a starting job on the Christian Academy varsity basketball team as an eighth grader that Cantwell realized he was a special athlete.
“Anytime a young man has the talent to play a varsity sport as an eighth grader, you’re dealing with something special,” Cantwell said. “The next year he joined our varsity football team and started on defense at safety for us as a freshman. That was a talented team that went all the way to the state semifinals. Every year since then he’s worked his tail off to become a more complete quarterback to the point now he is the top signal caller in the state of Kentucky.”
Hodge is coming off a junior season in which he led Christian Academy to the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Class 3A state championship. The Centurions capped a 15-0 season by defeating Bardstown 38-0 in December for their third state crown. Hodge threw three touchdown passes in the game, including throws of 23 and 13 yards in the first half.
It was a play during Christian Academy’s march to the finals, however, that Cantwell pointed out as a great example of Hodge’s all-around abilities. A third-round matchup found the Centurions pitted against the state’s other top 3A squad from Paducah Tilghman, which happens to be Cantwell’s prep alma mater.
“It was the regional championship and round three of the playoffs,” Cantwell said. “But they were the best team in our classification along with us, and so we kind of knew whoever won that game had a great chance of winning it all.
“We were down in the red zone, and we called a play that put a lot of responsibility on Cole. They brought a certain pressure that required him to make a post-snap adjustment. He had to get the ball out of his hand quickly and accurately and take a hit at the same time. He did all of those things and it turned into a huge touchdown completion that was a pivotal one in us winning the football game.”
Paducah Tilghman led 10-9 in the second quarter when Hodge drove the Centurions to the Paducah 16-yard line with less than a minute remaining in the first half. He then delivered the clutch touchdown pass of 16 yards to running back Gavin Copenhaver to put Christian Academy ahead to stay.
“Obviously, the physical jumps out at you on that play,” Cantwell said. “He gets hit as he throws and he’s accurate down the sideline to the running back. But also, too, just the mental aspect (of the play). Just knowing what his responsibilities are on the play, and not just reads and progressions. But also in pass protection, recognizing the blitz post-snap and then adjusting to that while a defender was bearing down on him was an impressive play. It just sums up him as a player. Physically, he’s gifted. He’s very athletic. But also the cerebral side of the game, the x’s and o’s, he’s just at another level.”
Hodge finished his junior season completing 169 of 232 passes for 2,949 yards and 48 touchdowns. He also rushed 76 times for 711 yards and nine more scores.
It’s no surprise Hodge has a strong mental game considering some of the quarterback mentors who have worked with him. While in middle school, Hodge was tutored by Gerry Ahrens, a former USA Today All-American at Louisville’s Male High and ex-University of Louisville quarterback.
While at Christian Academy, Hodge has not only benefited from working under Cantwell, but has been taught by the school’s quarterback coach, former Louisville quarterback and Super Bowl champion Chris Redman. Redman actually worked with current ECU offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Donnie Kirkpatrick during his first two seasons at Louisville.
With all that input from ex-Louisville Cardinal quarterbacks, it’s no surprise that Cantwell sees a lot of another ex-Cardinal in Hodge.
“My freshman year at Louisville we had a quarterback named Stefan LeFors, who actually in his senior year led the nation in completion percentage,” Cantwell said. “He was a third-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers. Stefan was very smart, very athletic, made great decisions and was a very talented passer as well. I see a lot of similarities between Stefan, who was arguably the nation’s best college quarterback in 2004, and what I see in Cole as a senior in high school and where he’s going to be in college.”
Cole isn’t the only Hodge on ECU’s recruiting radar. According to Cantwell, the Pirates have already offered a scholarship to Cole’s younger brother, Connor, a 6-1, 160-pound junior receiver.
“Connor has some size and length,” Cantwell said. “He can really stretch the field vertically. He’s a very fast, straight-line guy, but a deep threat on your go-balls and posts. He’s also very twitchy, so he’s great in the flats with the ball in his hands in space. He’s really a jack of all trades.”
Cole Hodge is one of 16 high school prospects who have made verbal commitments to East Carolina for the recruiting Class of 2024.
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