KENT: David Fisher and Colin Reardon still have a long way to go in competition to be the starting quarterback for Kent State. A long way.
But at least a week into spring practice, they know exactly what’s expected.
During the first week of practice, new coach Paul Haynes outlined what he wants in a quarterback — someone who can manage the game, play it safe and not make mistakes.
Ideally, he would like someone he tried to stop while with Arkansas last season, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, who isn’t known for having a superb arm but is efficient and manages a strong running game as well as anyone in the country.
That’s what Fisher or Reardon will be asked to do — just run the offense and stay out of trouble. Checking down to a third of fourth option will take precedence over taking a risk downfield.
“Our quarterback situation … he doesn’t have to win the game,” Haynes said last week. “He’s got to maintain the offense. He can’t turn the ball over. [Those] are the important things he has to do, and that’s all he has to do. Both of those guys when I met with them, I said you should study A.J. McCarron. He’s not a superstar, not to put him down, but he doesn’t lose the game.
“He hands the ball off … he doesn’t throw interceptions and he maintains the offense. That’s all those guys gotta go. That’s all we’re asking them to do.”
1,000 reasons to be safe
Considering Kent State’s backfield boasts two 1,000-yard rushers in Dri Archer and Trayion Durham, Haynes says the offense will look largely the same: heavy doses of the shifty Archer and bulldozing Durham, and the occasional pass to keep the drive going.
Even with the success of the running game, though, Kent State fans might not want “safe.” That’s perhaps the biggest reason why Spencer Keith beat out Fisher for the job last season, Fisher’s first after transferring to KSU from Palomar Community College. Keith had a better grasp of then-coach Darrell Hazell’s offense and looked more comfortable in his reads. But he didn’t make many down-the-field throws, often checking down to a shorter route. Fisher carried a little more risk-reward factor. It seemed like Hazell wanted to hand the keys to Fisher, like he wanted a guy who would occasionally fire it downfield, but a poor fall led to Keith starting.
Now, Fisher and Reardon, a redshirt freshman, stand on equal ground. They started competing against one another the moment Haynes stepped on campus.
“We grade every day … every day in the winter … every day in workouts,” Haynes said of every member of the team, including the quarterbacks. “That’s why those two guys probably graded out the best out of the whole team this winter break because they know if they slip, the next guy’s gonna separate from him. That’s the beauty of competition.”
The competition might not be over in Week 1, either. Haynes says he isn’t one to change quarterbacks during games based on performance too much but is open to a weekly competition.
“We gotta challenge those guys to get better,” he said. “Just because you’re the starter in Week 1 doesn’t mean you’re the starter in Week 2. Hopefully someone separates themselves, that’s what we’re hoping happens. But if it doesn’t, it’ll be a week-to-week competition.”
Fisher might have a slight upper hand based on the amount of total college experience he has, but Reardon has shown he has the better arm this spring and last fall. During the first week Fisher has taken slightly more snaps with the first-team offense but hasn’t been as accurate. Reardon also had the best two throws of practice Friday night in 11-on-11s.
A third candidate could join the competition in the fall when incoming freshman Nathan Strock comes to campus. Strock, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Tri-Valley High School, threw for more than 7,000 yards and ran for more than 1,700 during his time there. Haynes has said Strock will be given the opportunity to compete, but Fisher and Reardon will have a month of practice head start.
Haynes also indicated not much will be settled during the spring. It looks like this competition will last, most likely, up until the final days before Week 1, when Fisher and Reardon can go head-to-head and Strock gets his chance.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.