Spring Flingin’: three QBs, one job
Two sophomores, freshman vie for starting job
Garett McCullough | Sports Editor
Pittsburg State University could think of no better way to kick off spring than a showcase of the defending National Champions. The spring football game on Saturday, April 28, pitted the offense vs. the defense, with a few changes to the scoring system.
Instead of teaming the first-team offense with the second-team defense for parity, the coaching staff decided to make it a completely defense vs. offense competition. Offensive scoring was similar to typical scoring, but the offense could also get one point for a first down and one point for 20-plus yard plays.
The defensive scoring was slightly inflated since the defense doesn’t get the same number of opportunities to score as the offense. They received 12 points for a defensive score, five points for a fumble recovery, two points for a sack, failed two-point conversion try or a fourth-down stop inside its 50-yard line.
In addition, they got single points for forcing a punt, forcing a field goal on a drive inside its 50-yard line, a tackle-for-loss or a pass deflection.
With the spring rules in effect, the defense was able to come away with a 44-40 win, and, for the most part dominated the offense, especially at the line of scrimmage.
One player especially had a good scrimmage at a position that the Gorillas lost three players at from a year ago: defensive tackle.
Taye Irving, a freshman out of LaGrange, Ga., donned the No. 99 jersey and had an immediate impact as he did his best impression of JR Jones. Jones was an impact player at the defense tackle position last season and like Taye was right around 330 pounds. Their similarities aside, Taye showed a better ability to penetrate, which will prove valuable in the 4-3 scheme. Only time will tell if he will be enough of a threat to force opponents to double-team him, which would free up one of the best defensive players in the country, Nate Dreiling.
None of the quarterbacks stood out as the rightful owner of the starting job, but all three, especially Dennis Tanner Jr., were at a disadvantage while wearing the black jerseys. Each of the three showed good mobility, but the defenders needed only to put one hand on the quarterback for the takedown.
Despite being a freshman, Darrack Harger showed good poise in the pocket and hit his receivers on most underneath routes. He overthrew a few receivers on deep routes, but it is worth noting that John Brown was not on the field. Brown is a player who is difficult to overthrow unless Brett Favre is at quarterback.
Brown will be suited up come fall, but he rode the bench during the scrimmage with a few of the other more accomplished players. Brown’s partner in the passing game last year, the electrifying Jon Thomas, has since graduated. His absence left the Gorillas in search of another player with similar pass-catching skills, and they may have found that player. Five-foot, 7-inch junior Daniel Rank showcased good hands and route-running skills that fit into the same role that Thomas filled last season.
Andrew Castenada is returning for his senior campaign after catching and throwing two touchdowns in each category last season. Levi Kuntzsch and Gavin Lutman will provide big targets in the red zone for whoever is taking snaps this season for the Gorillas.
On the defensive side of the ball, there was only one glaring weakness: the secondary. Countless times receivers found themselves wide open behind the secondary, yet they made them pay only once, when redshirt-freshman Herman Ming hauled in a long pass from Harger for the score. If Anthony Abenoja, Tanner Jr. and Harger had connected with their receivers at every opportunity, the offense would have easily beaten the defense.
Elijah Olabode and Paul Robinson graduated and are gone for this upcoming season. They took with them two major qualities that helped this defense be so good last year. Olabode was the lockdown corner on the team last year and he was often left on an island. Robinson made his fair share of plays in the secondary last season, but was an absolute beast when he moved up into the box. Getting to the second level last season meant getting stuck by Robinson six yards past the line of scrimmage.
In the end, coach Tim Beck said that the purpose of the spring game is to figure out who is going to fill the holes from last season, and they pretty much did that. A shutdown corner needs to emerge to solidify the defense, though.
This team may not look or be like the team from last season but as Beck said before the game, this team will need to create its own identity.
If it can, there is no reason similar success isn’t on the horizon.