USD head football coach Bob Nielson said the coaching staff hopes to announce a starting quarterback by the end of the week during Monday’s virtual media day.
“The quarterback race is still that, a race,” Nielson said. “We would expect to name a starter here probably around the end of the week. I like the way those guys have competed, they’re getting better, more confident, more comfortable in our system.”
The Coyotes have six quarterbacks on the depth chart, and have narrowed the search down to around three candidates, but Nielson wouldn’t say who specifically was still in the running.
“We’ve narrowed it down a little bit, just in terms of the number of reps that guys are taking,” Nielson said. “There’s still three or four of the guys that are taking a lot of reps with the first group and in rotation, and this week will be the final pieces of the evaluation.”
The quarterback position is the only change on the offensive side of the ball from last season, which will have ended nearly 15 months to the day from the season opener next Friday. The other 10 starters from the 2019 season return for the offense, which Neilsen believes will help the quarterback settle in quickly.
Senior wide receiver Caleb Vander Esch said that the receivers know they have to be ready for anyone to be throwing them the ball, and that they will be ready to help whoever it is.
“We’ve talked about making sure that we know our assignments (as receivers),” Vander Esch said. “And that we’re running at full speed and doing the right things at the right spot. That’s really all we can do, but just trying to be on the same page as the quarterbacks every play.”
After four years of Chris Streveler and Austin Simmons, the Coyotes have a true quarterback battle, something that hasn’t been seen in a few years. Between COVID-19 regulations and the unknowns at the quarterback situation, Vander Esch said building connections with the quarterbacks was difficult.
“It’s been tough, initially with all the restrictions and whatnot,” Vander Esch said. “We couldn’t even use a ball to go out there and just play catch because of COVID restrictions and touching the same object, so that made it a little difficult. But definitely there have been a lot of good reps thrown around the last couple of months, and I think there definitely has been some more rapport built and excited to show it this spring.”
Neilsen said the offense still has the possibility of running with multiple quarterbacks because the six quarterbacks present different styles of play. There could be packages with different quarterbacks depending on game situations.
“I’m not going to say that you won’t see a couple of guys,” Nielson said. “They’re skillsets are different. We’ve got a handful of specific package things that we may use at time with one of the quarterbacks that we necessarily wouldn’t use with the other one.”
Regardless of who the quarterback is come Feb. 19, the Coyote offense looks to improve upon last season. The new starting quarterback will make his first start against Western Illinois Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. inside the DakotaDome.