Missouri Valley will see an influx of new quarterbacks
FARGO — It was like grandma’s chicken noodle soup when you had a cold or air conditioning on a hot and humid day. There were certain built-in comfort factors for North Dakota State football the past three years when the Bison began fall practice with Brock Jensen at quarterback.
But his eligibility is finally used up and NDSU isn’t alone in that fact. Half of the teams in the Missouri Valley Football Conference have either a quarterback in his first year of starting or have a battle to be the No. 1 guy.
“It will be interesting to see how that shakes out,” said Illinois State head coach Brock Spack.
South Dakota State is the lone exception with a quarterback who is going into his third or fourth year of being the undisputed full-time starter. Senior Austin Sumner was an easy pick on the league’s all-preseason team.
“That’s the key position in a program,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “It isn’t because he touches the ball all the time. In most programs, he’s the leader. The team rallies or stumbles with that guy. We’re excited Austin is coming back for his last year, but we’re going to up the ante and ask more of him also.”
Indiana State returns starter Mike Perish. Missouri State has senior Kierra Harris back. Western Illinois’ Trenton Norvell had a record-setting freshman season and South Dakota junior Kevin Earl came on in the last half of last season.
NDSU’s Carson Wentz has solidified his starting spot in replacing Jensen. Wentz has been the heir apparent for over a year with head coach Chris Klieman calling him an exceptional athlete and great leader.
“He has all the physical tools,” Klieman said, “but he just doesn’t have the snaps or experience.”
Experience doesn’t necessarily mean a No. 1 job at Northern Iowa, Illinois State or Southern Illinois. Sawyer Kollmorgen has two years of starts behind him but UNI head coach Mark Farley said this week nobody has the top job.
Kollmorgen is battling with senior Brion Carnes, who came on for the injured Kollmorgen and led the Panthers to three wins to close last season.
Blake Winkler was the starting quarterback for Illinois State when the Redbirds played at NDSU. He played in 10 games and threw for 1,637 yards.
“Winkler did a good job last year but there is no position that is locked down right now,” Spack said. “I think we’ll have a quarterback battle here.”
Winkler will most likely compete with Indiana transfer Tre Roberson in fall camp. Roberson, a junior, started as a true freshman for the Hoosiers, broke his leg and received a medical hardship the following year and started four games last season.
“He played well at the Big Ten level and the big stage,” Spack said. “We’ll see what he brings.”
Another FBS transfer is in the mix at Southern Illinois in junior Mark Iannotti from Eastern Michigan, where he played sparingly. Ryan West started four games after starter Kory Faulkner went down with an injury and Salukis head coach Dale Lennon said junior Matt Vincent has a strong arm.
“We want to name a No. 1 quarterback so as to not drag this out,” Lennon said.
Youngstown State may enter the season with a two-quarterback system if junior Dante Nania and freshman Ricky Davis don’t separate themselves in practice. Nania was the backup to four-year starter Kurt Hess last year, but saw action in just four games.
“Right now it’s primarily a two-man race,” said Youngstown head coach Eric Wolford. “I feel confident both of the guys can get the job done.”