With Markell Jones in the Columbus East backfield last season, KJ McCarter didn’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase his skills throwing the football.

But with Jones, the 2014 Indiana Mr. Football, off to Purdue, McCarter figures to have more chances to air it out this fall for the Olympians. That will play out in the midst of several colleges vying for McCarter’s services.

“Obviously, Markell did a ton for us,” McCarter said. “I think we’ll be really successful running the ball again this year because we have a good offensive line, and we have Steven O’Neal, who like Markell is a superstar. But we’ll probably have to pass the ball more, and I’m looking forward to it.”

In his first year as a starter, McCarter completed 67 of 114 passes for 1,227 yards, with 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He also carried 105 times for 643 yards and eight scores.

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“He’s worked hard and done everything we’ve asked him,” East coach Bob Gaddis said. “He’s thrown the ball well and can run the ball a little bit. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, and we’re very happy with his development.”

So is Butler University. Last month, the nonscholarship Football Championship Subdivision school, offered him a chance to join the Bulldogs.

“I’m definitely trying to get a full-money type scholarship,” McCarter said. “But the other schools I’m looking at are the Ivy Leagues, and they don’t give money either. I want to go to an academic school, but getting some (scholarship) money would be nice.”

Besides Butler, McCarter also has visited University of Indianapolis, Indiana State and Purdue. He plans to visit Dartmouth on Wednesday, Brown and Harvard next weekend, Columbia in mid-July and Stanford on July 31.

Another Ivy League school, Penn, has been to East to see McCarter. He also is drawing some interest from Football Bowl Subdivision programs Purdue and Cincinnati, as well as FCS programs William and Mary, Lafayette, Holy Cross and Drake.

With a 4.2 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and a 34 on the ACT, McCarter has been an attractive prospect for schools such as Stanford and the Ivy League programs. He is considering majoring in pre med or business.

“He does a nice job with that (academic) part of it,” Gaddis said. “His academics, the fact that he’s a very strong student, has made him a quarterback that those types of school are going to recruit. Because of that, about every institution that you would consider a high-level institution has been in contact with him. At those levels, they want to have good students and find good players, also.”

McCarter said he would likely wait until after the season to make his college decision.

“I don’t really have a timetable because a lot of the schools, especially the Ivy League schools, take a long time to offer,” McCarter said. “So it will probably be around January or February.”

Because he didn’t throw the ball that much last season, McCarter was surprised when he got the offer from Butler.

“I definitely have felt like I can play at the next level,” McCarter said. “I didn’t get to show everything that I could do last year because we had such a great running back. But I think schools see that we had really good success at Columbus East, and with the circumstances, I wasn’t able to throw the ball as much. But they understand that we had one of the best running backs in the country.”

Jones ran for a state-record 3,536 yards and 60 touchdowns in leading the Olympians to a 13-1 record and a regional championship. East, which won the Class 4A state title the previous year, moves up to Class 5A this season.

“I think this year, we’ll definitely be a little bit more balanced than last year, so it will be interesting to see how our offense looks,” McCarter said. “We have Cam Wilson back at wide receiver. He did really well at camp, and I’m excited about some of the younger guys.”

“We’re trying to take a good look at what KJ’s strengths are and base our offense around our quarterback’s strengths,” Gaddis said. “But then we have to match his strengths with what the offense can do.”

The Olympians had their team camp last week at DePauw University.

“We got to work with the wide receivers a lot of offense, and some of the defensive guys have got together and worked on fundamentals,” McCarter said. “We worked in the weight room really hard. I feel like the offseason has gone well.”

The McCarter file

Name: K.J. McCarter

School: Columbus East

Year: Will be a senior

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 195

Position: Quarterback

Key stats: 67 of 114 for 1,227 yards, 17 touchdowns passing; 105 carries for 643 yards and eight scores rushing

GPA: 4.2

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.