Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – The 2015 season will be full of
outstanding quarterbacks across the FCS.
Even the transfer of Eastern Washington star Vernon Adams Jr. to Oregon in
early February does not negate the fact the class is deep (
But it doesn’t mean everybody is afforded the luxury of a veteran player
returning at football’s most important position. A number of teams are
With Adams’ departure for his senior season, the biggest losses are found in
the Big Sky Conference, where, like Eastern Washington, Idaho State (Justin
Arias), Montana (Jordan Johnson) and Sacramento State (Garrett Safron) are
working on their replacements.
Some decisions on who’s No. 1 won’t be made until preseason camps in August,
while others are becoming clearer in spring practices.
At Eastern Washington, Jordan West is expected to be the starter as a redshirt
junior, having replaced Adams for four games last season, and going 3-1, when
the two-time Walter Payton Award runner-up was sidelined with a broken foot.
West moves well for his 6-foot-4, 220-pound size, and threw for eight
touchdowns and only one interceptions in his four starts.
Arias shared All-Big Sky first-team honors with Adams last season, leading the
FCS in passing yards and touchdown passes. Coach Mike Kramer says he won’t
name a starting quarterback until the end of August, but Arias’ successor
figures to be young, either redshirt freshman Tanner Gueller or redshirt
sophomore James Delacensarie.
Montana will have a new rapid-fire offensive system under first-year coach Bob
Stitt. Returning letterman Brady Gustafson has separated himself during spring
practices from an original group of seven, which included Idaho transfer Chad
Sacramento State also has a transfer in its mix. Kolney Cassel made one start
as a redshirt freshman at SMU last season. But last year’s backup with the
Hornets, redshirt sophomore Daniel Kniffin, a Texan himself, while Cassel is
from Yakima, Washington, impressed in light duty behind Safron.
The biggest loss in the nation’s top FCS conference – the Missouri Valley – is
at Indiana State with Mike Perish. He led the conference in passing yards and
the Sycamores to their first playoff berth in 30 years. Coach Mike Sanford
appears to have a replacement in junior college transfer Zach Kline, whose
college career began at Cal.
The situation isn’t as clear at Richmond, which lost standout Michael Strauss
and his backup, Michael Rocco. Kyle Lauletta, who played in four games as a
true freshman in 2013 and redshirted last season, and redshirt junior David
Broadus, a running-style QB despite his 6-4, 227-pound size, are in a close
competition during spring practices.
Fordham’s Michael Nebrich, who won two straight Patriot League offensive
player of the year awards, is graduating this spring and won’t be using his
final season of eligibility. Kevin Anderson, who transferred in from Marshall
last year, is expected to become the starter.
Tennessee State has lost Michael German, its all-time leader in passing
yardage, but redshirt junior Ronald Butler has made 12 career starts and
earned All-Ohio Valley Conference second-team honors in 2013. Still, the
Tigers coaches have liked what they’ve seen in redshirt freshman Oshay
Ackerman-Carter, whose pocket style is more like German’s.
Southeastern Louisiana has big shoes to fill in Bryan Bennett. D’Shaie Landor,
a redshirt junior who was last year’s backup after spending two years at
Louisiana-Lafayette, is the heir apparent.
Also in the Southland Conference, Lamar has lost Caleb Berry, who finished
second in the FCS in passing yards last year, as well as two potential
returnees. Transfers Carson Earp (Navarro College) and Joe Minden (Stephen F.
Austin) were basically even in the Cardinals’ recent spring game, and high
school signee Brett Cox will join the mix in August.
Howard’s Greg McGhee is off to the CFL after a superb career in which he set
the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s all-time record for total offense. The
position is wide open after Jamie Cunningham was the only other QB to throw a
pass last season (and, yes, it was just one).
In the other FCS conference for historically black colleges, Prairie View A&M
must replace standout Jerry Lovelocke, but redshirt senior De’Auntre Smiley
played extensively in 2012 and ’13 before missing last season, and Trey Green
returns after being last year’s backup.