When junior transfer and this season’s starter behind center Chris Streveler went down with a concussion, head coach Bob Nielson was faced with a dilemma. Would he go with senior team captain and last season’s starter Ryan Saeger, or would he go with Austin Simmons, a redshirt freshman with little collegiate experience?
For the game against Illinois State, both Saeger and Simmons saw the field. Saeger started the game and drove the team down the field for a field goal in the first drive of the game. The two would switch off a bit, but Simmons saw the majority of snaps for the rest of the game. That decision paid off as Simmons, and senior kicker Miles Bergner, received Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week honors.
Now with a matchup with Nielson’s former team Western Illinois coming this weekend, it looks like Streveler will be back under center for the Coyotes. This isn’t without good reason — the junior has been explosive for USD since his first drive as a Coyote ended with him taking off for a 55-yard touchdown against New Mexico. Streveler is currently second in the Missouri Valley in rushing, one spot ahead of fellow Coyote senior running back Trevor Bouma.
Streveler has definitely earned his spot as the starter between the three, but that doesn’t make the other two options any less interesting.
Saeger has been around the team longest and has relationships with his teammates only time can build. He led the Coyotes last year during a season in which they exceeded many expectations. The senior brings a lot to the table. Simmons is also very intriguing. After sitting out last year as a redshirt, Saturday was the first chance many got to see him play extended minutes. He showcased his ability to move outside the pocket as well as his arm, which may just be the best of the three. This is not to outshine Streveler who is the best runner of the three and has been essential to the Coyotes other three wins this season.
In interviews Nielson has said that he may continue to mix the three during games as he has throughout the season. During the Weber State game, Simmons checked in while in the red zone and threw two passes, one of them for a touchdown. After the opener against New Mexico in which all three quarterbacks took snaps, it has been mainly Streveler. Simmons came in against Weber State and Saeger finished the game against Indiana State when Streveler went down, but otherwise Streveler has run the show.
It would be interesting to see Nielson experiment more with different quarterbacks in different situations, especially if the offense stalls which it has late in the fourth in multiple games, but switching out quarterbacks frequently can bring problems on its own.
No matter what happens with the Coyote quarterbacks one thing is for sure: having three good guys under center is never a bad thing.