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NAU coaches looking to start the best of 3 QBs
There’s a battle brewing in Flagstaff, and it might not be over for a while.
The good news, however, is that only positive results are expected to come of it. The battle is for the vacant Northern Arizona starting quarterback position, left by graduating senior Cary Grossart after he led the Lumberjacks to an 8-3 season in which they just missed the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
Grossart’s three potential successors are junior Chase Cartwright and redshirt sophomores Jordan Perry and Kyren Poe. Each has a unique skill set and has shown NAU’s coaching staff the ability to lead the team, which is one reason the battle might extend deep into fall practice.
“It’s an open competition,” coach Jerome Souers said. “They’re all positive guys, all students of the game, and I think all three see themselves in the position of being able to contribute and manage our offense.”
The other complicating factor is the status of Cartwright. The Tempe Corona del Sol alum filled in for Grossart last year after he suffered a knee injury in the season opener against Arizona State and was expected to be the front-runner for the position this season.
But Cartwright lasted just three games before suffering a knee injury of his own, and he still has yet to be cleared for full contact, instead being limited to seven-on-seven passing exercises.
Cartwright expects to be at full strength by the time fall camp rolls around, and though he knows the injury has put him at a disadvantage, NAU’s coaches have made it clear he will have every chance to win the job once he is healthy.
“They’ve been very fair,” Cartwright said. “They said from the beginning of spring ball that there would be an equal opportunity for all of us. All three of us know that the best guy is going to play, and that’s the fairest way to do it.”
Perry, like Cartwright, is more of a traditional pocket passer and gained valuable experience once Cartwright was hurt, completing 8 of 11 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Poe, out of Chandler Hamilton High, is a converted receiver and the most athletic of the three, able to make plays with his arm and legs.
NAU’s annual spring game Saturday will be televised (by Fox Sports Arizona) for the first time in program history, an excellent opportunity for the Lumberjacks to show off their facilities and the potential of the team this season, about which Souers is raving.
With nine returning starters on defense and All-Big Sky running back Zach Bauman entering his senior year, a proficient quarterback will go a long way toward improving NAU’s chances.
Souers is aware of this, and though he’d like to settle the competition as soon as possible, he’s comfortable letting it play out until one of the three separates himself from the others.
“We want to pick a guy and have that be our guy, no question about it,” Souers said. “Bottom line is, we got three very good candidates, and that position is going to be a strength for us.”
By Tyler Killian, AZ Central