Rice football is still searching for their starting quarterback for the 2018 season with several players in the mix to earn the job. How will this battle play out over the course of fall camp?
The click-clack of cleats jogging down the concrete ramp onto the field echoed through Rice Stadium as the team began to trickle in for the first practice of the season. Scattered among the masses of blue and white jerseys were a handful of red-clad athletes. The red, meant to symbolize no contact, is reserved for players working their way back from injury and, perhaps more so, is the designator of the quarterbacks.
As the team spread out into position groups the quarterbacks gathered together as well, talking amongst themselves, going through their warmups and tossing the ball back and forth between them. From afar, everyone looked somewhat similar. No one player had distanced themselves from the group. Not only was that true of their physical proximity, but it’s reflective of the current state of the depth chart too.
Head coach Mike Bloomgren called the depth chart “fluid as water” and another staffer commented that it was “worth the paper it’s printed on.” From cornerback to wide receiver, from the specialists to the offensive line, every position is up for grabs. Including the quarterback.
“Everything is going to be evaluated. Everything is going to be filmed. Everything will be watched. The assessment is real and constant,” Bloomgren said with a passionate, yet even-keeled temperament. “Everything will be earned.”
Rice football enters the 2018 season with a fair amount of uncertainty at the quarterback position. Jackson Tyner and Sam Glaesmann both saw meaningful snaps last season. Joining Tyner and Glaesmann is graduate transfer Shawn Stankavage from Vanderbilt. That trio, at least for now, represents the primary contenders for the starting job.
Bloomgren gave Tyner the nod as the front-runner at Conference USA Media Days, but even Tyner is preparing himself for the battle he’s going to face for the starting job. “Competition is good.” he remarked after practice, “It’s going to make every single one of us better, perform higher. We’re going to push each other.” Glaesmann echoed that sentiment, going as far as to say that the quarterback room was all “good buddies” who “want the best for each other.”
As they went throughout practice they all saw highs and lows. The trio of Tyner, Glaesmann and Stankavage rotated with the starters throughout most of the first day. Each would take a rep, then step back and watch the next guy in line take his shot.
No one distanced themselves too much on opening day, but there’s a long way to go before the Owls kick off their season against Prairie View A&M on Aug. 25. Bloomgren would like to have a starter penciled in before that game begins, but said he had “no fear or qualms about letting this battle go to gametime and beyond if that’s what it takes.”
On a talent basis, Bloomgren is not concerned, going as far as to say he believed there were four or five guys that had enough talent to win the job outright. When it comes to making his decision, he touted intelligence as the top differentiator. At the end of the day, the question he was asking himself was simple: “Who is going to be able to execute our offense the most efficiently?”
Without revealing his hand too much, Bloomgren did confirm that mobility was something he valued a fair amount. “We always want a better athlete. We always want someone that can get three first downs a game with their feet,” he said excitedly, saying that players that can move around well and steal first downs make the west coast offense operated as it’s designed to be run.”
That would play to the strengths of Glaesmann, who made a move with the ball that was so quick and elusive that Bloomgren called him a “magician” on the field. Glaesmann averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season and scored three touchdowns on the ground. Tyner averaged 2.0 yards per rush with one rushing score. Stankvage never recorded a carry at Vanderbilt but did rush for 1,058 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final year of high school in North Carolina.
All three quarterbacks were put in motion multiple times during the drills. Each looked comfortable on the move and no end to the battle is in sight quite yet. Tyner might have summed it up the best. Whoever wins the job, they’re all just excited to be back out of the field competing.
“Last year we had a rough year and a lot of guys got to the point where we just weren’t excited to play ball,” he admitted, somewhat begrudging before ending on a high note “We got the juice back and we’re ready to ball.”
“In my perfect world,” Bloomgren said, somewhat hopefully, “someone will jump up, snatch that job and never let go.” The quarterback race is wide open. May the best man win.