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NDSU opens spring practice with wide-open battle at quarterback
Dante Perez is a junior who hasn’t played in a game since 2008. Jose Mohler is a sophomore who has played four games. Brock Jensen is a freshman who hasn’t played since his high school senior season in 2008.
One of the three is expected to emerge as the North Dakota State starting quarterback by the end of April.
The Bison open spring football practice today and the competition for the No. 1 job is wide open, said head coach Craig Bohl. He said all three will get equal repetitions in practice unless there is separation along the way.
“It’s a position we have not been in since I’ve been our head coach with this much competition at quarterback,” said Bohl, who will enter his eighth season next fall, “and we need it.”
Mohler should have an advantage being he started the last four games last season and got better each time. He finished 43 of 72 (60 percent) for 635 yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
His strengths are his quick feet and elusiveness. And at 177 pounds, he was not afraid to put his head down for extra yardage. Asked if he was disappointed not opening spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback after finishing last season in that role, he said competition will bring out the best player.
“It doesn’t disappoint me, it makes you want to work that much harder and to be that No. 1 guy,” he said. “Competition will make this team better and go out and compete every practice and bring a lot of fire and energy.”
Jensen is the most physically imposing at 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds.
He’s lowered his 40-yard dash time one-tenth of a second from 4.80 at the start of fall camp to 4.70 this winter.
“I’ve been hitting it hard along with all the other guys,” he said.
Perez is regarded as having the quickest feet and the strongest arm of the three. At Foothill Junior College (Calif.), he set school career records for passing yards with 5,938 and touchdowns with 60.
But he sprained an ankle during fall camp that dropped him from the competition for the starting job with Nick Mertens. A decision to redshirt him was eventually made about a month into the season.
At 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, he presents a different look to defenses.
“He has shown he has really good mobility,” Bohl said.
NDSU will stay with its West Coast offense that has been a trademark since Bohl arrived. An emphasis this spring will be to improve the passing game, which was inconsistent last season.
“We need to make significant improvements in the passing game,” Bohl said.
It starts today.
“I have a good opportunity ahead of me, and the other guys do, too,” Jensen said.
By Jeff Kolpack