The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 4, 2014

Focus will be on Mavericks' QBs this spring


The Mankato Free Press

---- — The Minnesota State football team began its spring practice period this week, 14 workouts in 27 days, trying to see who has been working hard to maintain a starting position and which backups might be ready to get more playing time in the fall.

The biggest question for this team is certainly at quarterback. Mitch Brozovich has some experience, though he is an untested passer. Redshirt freshmen Neico Stokke and Nick Pieruccini got into games last season, doing some good things in garbage time. No idea what Zach Evans, who was redshirted last season, can do, but it seems unlikely an untested player would leap over the others this spring.

Last season, the Mavericks’ fans enjoyed spectacular quarterback play as Jon Wolf had one of the best seasons in program history.

When the circumstances called for a run, he was explosive and elusive, gaining so many first downs purely because of his athleticism. When he needed to complete a pass, he found the seam with a tight spiral, giving his receiver a chance to make the play.

And when everything broke down, and it looked like he might get stopped, he found a way to excel when few others would have done the same.

There seems no chance, nor should there be expectations, that next season’s starting quarterback will be as productive. He shouldn’t have to be.

The Mavericks will again have the best offensive line in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, with four starters returning with 121 combined starts. The top three running backs — Connor Thomas, Andy Pfeiffer and Chad Zastrow — combined for 1,930 yards, combining their own talent with the powerful line and a defense that needed to spend a lot of time watching the quarterback.

The Mavericks’ defense should also be very good. It won’t be easy to replace defensive end Chris Schaudt, who holds program records for sacks and drew a lot of double-teams, and linebacker Isaac Kolstad, but there is a lot of experience returning in that unit.

So the quarterback doesn’t need to be Wolf-like. But he does need to hang on to the ball and be efficient on third down. Last season, teams would try to stop Wolf first, the rest of the offense second. This season, at least early, the opposing defense is probably going to force the quarterback to make plays.

Brozovich has followed a similar career path to Wolf, who played sparingly all over the field as a freshman and sophomore before grabbing the quarterback spot as a junior. Brozovich, who isn’t as big or athletic as Wolf, will get the first shot, and he’s done OK with limited opportunities.

If he can make a similar jump in production that Wolf made as a junior, the position will be set for the next two seasons. If not, one of the youngsters will get a shot.

Ideally, coach Aaron Keen would love to have this position solidified by April 27, the day after the annual spring game. It would make things a lot easier in the fall, when they need to worry as much about opponents as themselves.

Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at ccourrier@mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.