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Jensen opens NDSU's fall camp as starting QB

Photo by David Samson/Forum Communications Co. North Dakota State sophomore quarterback Brock Jensen throws a pass during practice Friday.

FARGO -- The pieces to the puzzle appear to be present for the North Dakota State football team.

Interior size. Check.

Speed. Check.

Running attack. Check.

Experience: Check.

Still left blank from last season, however, is a threatening passing game. Sophomore Brock Jensen opened fall camp as the No. 1 quarterback, but head coach Craig Bohl said that doesn't necessarily mean he'll be the starter in the season opener Sept. 3 against Lafayette (Pa.) College.

Jensen and top backup Esley Thorton will be evaluated all month with a main goal of seeing improvement from last year's numbers. Jensen was 59 of 131 passing, a 45 percent completion rate. As a team, NDSU completed 52 percent of its passes.

"It's hard to feel good about your passing game when you're in the 50 percent range," Bohl said. "That's not going to be able to get it done to win the Valley. ... We can't have the same player that we had there last year otherwise we won't be moving forward as a football team at that position."

That is not news to Jensen, who said at NDSU's annual media day on Friday that the head coach is spot on.

"He put it how it has to be put," Jensen said. "It has to improve and we've doing everything in the summer to improve the passing game. Everybody is a year older now and I think things are shaping up as far as being a pretty good passing game goes."

The last time NDSU had a potent, accurate passing attack was Steve Walker's last year as starting quarterback in 2007. Those were the days when it was nothing to call a play-action pass on first-and-10.

But with the dwindling completion rate of recent years has come a stacked defensive line, with sometimes eight or nine defensive players near the line of scrimmage.

It didn't help Jensen that he was consistently injured last season, ailments like a bad throwing shoulder that limited his effectiveness. That's not a problem now, he said.

At 6-foot-3 and 224 pounds, he's not going to change from being a physical player, he said.

"But I'm going to be a lot smarter though," he said with a smile.

Jensen said practice in the offseason was done with a purpose. He has a much better grasp of the playbook then he did at this time last year and the game is "slowing down," which usually means quarterbacks have a better grasp of finding the second or third option on passing plays.

"He possesses a lot of the qualities we're looking for at the quarterback position," Bohl said. "And he's improved. From the naked eye what we saw the first day, his mechanics are better and his release was quicker. We did some fairly elementary things in the passing game but there was progress made."

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.