|« Sioux-Bison football rivalry still on hold||UC Davis AD Warzecka to retire in June »|
2011 Big Sky position rankings: Quarterbacks
One burst on the scene and took the Big Sky Conference by storm, earning co-offensive MVP and freshman of the year honors while leading his team to the a league title.
The other guided his team on an 11-game winning streak that culminated in a national championship victory – despite the loss of its most crucial offensive player.
Yes, Montana State’s DeNarius McGhee and Eastern Washington’s Bo Levi Mitchell are the top two quarterbacks in the Big Sky entering 2011. I think we can all agree on that.
But who has the edge?
TOP 10 QUARTERBACKS
1 - DeNarius McGhee, Soph., Montana State
Comment: Born leader looks to climb to greater heights in 2011.
2 - Bo Levi Mitchell, Sr., Eastern Washington
Comment: Clutch performer riding high after national title run.
3 - Jeff Fleming, Sr., Sacramento State
Comment: As dynamic as them come. Just ask the Bobcats.
4 - Chase Stangel, Sr., Northern Arizona
Comment: Hoping to emerge from the shadow of Michael Herrick.
5 - Connor Kavanaugh, Sr., Portland State
Comment: Potent athlete gives Vikings a dual-threat under center.
6 - Dylan Orms, Sr., Northern Colorado
Comment: Can improved performance translate to more victories?
7 - Jordan Johnson, Soph., Montana
Comment: Has the tools to assume the Grizzlies’ starting job.
8 - Mike Hoke, Jr., Weber State
Comment: Looking to fill big shoes left by Cameron Higgins.
9 - Nate Montana, Jr., Montana
Comment: Can he finally find stability with the Griz?
10 - Kyle Morris, Soph., Idaho State
Comment: The only returning Bengal QB with FCS experience.
•Unflappable as a freshman, DeNarius McGhee threw for 3,163 with 23 TDs and just 6 INTs while completing a league-best 62.7 percent of his passes for MSU. He also led the league in passing yards per game (263.6), pass efficiency (153.8) and total offense per game (278.7). Talent aside, McGhee’s leadership was something MSU lacked under center since the Travis Lulay era and, ultimately, was the major factor in a Big Sky title. What’s got opposing coaches worried this season? McGhee knows he can improve; and he has vowed to work harder than ever this offseason.
•After transferring from Southern Methodist last year, Bo Levi Mitchell caught fire at Eastern Washington. Mitchell had 3,496 passing yards and 37 TDs in 15 games last season. But most impressively, with star RB Taiwan Jones on the shelf, Mitchell led EWU to the FCS title game, then rallied the Eagles from 19 points down in the second half to beat Delaware. What can he do for an encore?
•The game that best defines Jeff Fleming was Sac State’s 64-61 overtime loss to the Bobcats last October. MSU was up 37-10 at halftime, but Fleming led a breathtaking comeback as the Hornets scored 51 points in the second half, including a school-record 35 in the third quarter. Sac scored touchdowns on all five of its third-quarter possessions. Fleming tied a school record with six total touchdowns, and finished the game with 348 yards and five scores through the air.
•Riding pine behind a star can’t be easy, but Chase Stangel played second fiddle to Michael Herrick for two years after dropping down from Arizona State. Now, it’s Stangel’s turn … or so it seems (junior Cary Grossart pressed Stangel this spring). Stangel played well in two starts last year, and in nine appearances threw for 376 yards with two TDs and no picks. Overall, he finished 45-for-75 passing (61 percent), and nearly led the Lumberjacks to coach Jerome Souers’ first-ever victory over Montana in 13 tries.
•Connor Kavanaugh was having a good run before he broke his left (throwing) hand late in the 2010 campaign. As a result, the senior was limited this spring. But Portland State coach Nigel Burton says Kavanaugh is still a “field general,” and is the frontrunner to be the Viks’ starter this fall – even though gunslinger Drew Hubel will be back in the mix. Kavanaugh averaged better than 200 yards of total offense per game last year and was named an All-Big Sky performer.
Dylan Orms had an efficient season at Northern Colorado in 2010, but it resulted in a 3-8 record. Orms, who accounted for 21 TDs last season, aims to prove to new coach Earnest Collins that he’s still the man in Greeley. … One of the main factors that plagued Montana for much of last season was below-average play at QB. Talented sophomore Jordan Johnson, if he earns the starting job, has the tools to reverse that trend. Johnson ended spring ball as the assumed frontrunner to earn the job over three others in Missoula. … While backing up Cameron Higgins at Weber State, Mike Hoke was in the same position Stangel had been in. Hoke didn’t play much, but showed flashes when he did. … Nate Montana brings a ton of name recognition to the Grizzlies as the son of NFL legend Joe Montana. But after transfering from Notre Dame, Montana is playing for his sixth coach in six seasons since his junior year of high school. Yet his potential is intriguing. … New Idaho State coach Mike Kramer is rebuilding in Pocatello, but Kyle Morris could be the ringleader of what expects to be a pass-happy offense. Kevin Yost is in the mix, as well.
By Greg Rachac, Billings Gazette