Cobbers need improvement at QB
The number sticks out like a 100-story skyscraper in a Red River Valley beet field. Lonely. Singular. Standing out for everyone to see. One. That is the number of touchdown passes thrown by Concordia quarterbacks last season. In 10 games. The Cob...
The number sticks out like a 100-story skyscraper in a Red River Valley beet field. Lonely. Singular. Standing out for everyone to see.
That is the number of touchdown passes thrown by Concordia quarterbacks last season. In 10 games. The Cobbers had less aerial power than the Haitian air force.
Now for the good news: Jesse Nelson threw the touchdown pass.
That's good news because Nelson was named this week as the starter for Concordia's opener Saturday against Minnesota State Moorhead. And, like Jake Christiansen once said, it's always better to have a returning starter who's thrown one TD than one who's thrown none at all.
Welcome to Cobber Football 2007, which for at least one game will carry the same intrigue as Cobber Football 2006.
Will the Cobbers have a quarterback?
If not, what will they do?
And, if they can't find a QB, can Concordia convince the NCAA to give Brian Schumacher one more year of eligibility?
Cobber coach Terry Horan gave the nod to Nelson, a junior from Minnetonka, Minn., over Andrew Larson, a sophomore from Fergus Falls, Minn. Both players impressed, Horan said, but Nelson had the edge in experience. He started six games last year while Larson, who was a standout high school quarterback, played defensive back.
Horan said Larson will almost certainly play against the Dragons.
"Unless Nelson moves us up and down the field and is doing great things. Then it's tough to take him out," Horan said.
That would be a nice problem for the Cobbers to have. A year ago, during a 4-6 nosedive, much of Concordia's trouble centered on its quarterbacks. Eric Rodel started the opener at MSUM, threw three interceptions in a 28-7 loss, and was replaced after an 0-3 start by Scott Schumacher. He lasted one game. Nelson started the final six.
The results were better, but hardly comforting. The Cobbers ranked last in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in passing offense at 94.7 yards per game. Concordia's pass game was so anemic that opponents simply stacked the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
"We all know we struggled offensively last season," Nelson said. "We don't want to duplicate that this season. I think we have a good group of seniors and a great core of players who believe again in what Cobber football is all about."
Nelson's issues came not with Concordia's triple-option running game - "Jesse reads the option like no other," Horan says - but with making the correct reads in the passing game. It's the quarterback's job to read the opponents' defense and pass coverage and make the correct throws based on those reads.
"Jesse's always had the arm strength and pretty good accuracy," Horan said. "This fall, we've seen that he's really improved on his reads. Last year helped him a lot. He got thrown into the fire, basically. Now we feel like he knows where his receivers need to be and where the throws need to go."
Horan said Concordia's receivers - Jake Krause, Riley Sammon and Nick Alton - are improved over last year's corps and the Cobbers offensive line should provide better pass protection.
"Those things should help. It wasn't all on the quarterback last year," Horan said.
But that's where the focus will be the sharpest. And if Nelson struggles early against the Dragons, the questions will start again.
"I think I can make the decisions to win football games this year," Nelson said. "I struggled last year and I'm excited for the opportunity to show everybody what I can do."
Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or firstname.lastname@example.org . McFeely's blog can be found