The switch from middle linebacker to quarterback isn’t exactly a natural transition, but Palmer Hutchison has made it look a lot easier than expected, according to first-year Hays High coach Tony Crough.

Hutchison is taking over quarterback duties for the Indians after earning first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors at linebacker last year.

“Wish we had two of him,” Crough said. “He’s such a dang good linebacker too. We just didn’t have a quarterback that was ready. Palmer’s just a natural athlete that can do it all. He didn’t know he could play quarterback, and, heck, we didn’t know either. Then we put him in there and he’s just looking really good, so we’re expecting big things out of him. Don’t be shocked to see him a little bit on defense, too.”

Hutchison said it’s been a fun, but challenging change.

“There’s a bunch of reads (to learn),” said Hutchison, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior. “I haven’t started a game yet so I’m not really used to it, but I’ll progress as the season goes and it will be fun to see me change.”

Hutchison will lead the up-tempo, spread offense that Crough is implementing for the Indians, who went 3-6 last season.

“It’s going to look a little different,” Crough said. “We’re going to put the ball in the air. We’re going to run it some with our quarterback and do some different things. Just really trying to take advantage of getting athletes in space and making plays.”

“I think the personnel we have perfectly fits this style of offense,” Hutchison added. “I think it will work well this season.”

A key weapon for the Indians’ offense could be 6-foot-8, 185-pound junior receiver Dylan Ruder. Crough also said he’s been pleased with the progression of the offensive line.

“Dylan Ruder’s been coming along a lot. A 6-8 receiver out there is kind of nice to have,” he said. “And I think our O-line is probably our most improved group in the first three weeks.”

The Indians will be aggressive in their defensive schemes, Crough said.

“Defensively, we’re going to have multiple odd and even fronts,” he said. “We’re going to be an attacking style that’s going to blitz you and change coverages on you.

“Really, our philosophy is to be aggressive on special teams, offense, defense. We’re just trying to be aggressive as we can.”

Key returners on the defensive side include D-tackle Logan Schulte and defensive back Keaton Markley. Both were second-team All-WAC picks last year.

The Indians, the smallest school in Class 5A, will open the season Friday with a tough test at Junction City.

“The past few seasons we’ve had pretty tough schedules. This season’s no different,” Hutchison said. “Just having a tough opponent at the beginning of the season builds us and prepares us better for WAC play. I think it’s good for us.”

“Quite honestly, I think everyone sees us as the push-over team right now,” Crough said. “We’re just excited to go prove to everybody that we’re not.”