Two redshirt freshmen in midst of competition to be UND's starting QB

GRAND FORKS - The University of North Dakota's big question in fall camp has yet to be answered: Who will start at quarterback when UND opens its 2013 season Aug. 29 against Valparaiso?...

Ryan Bartels
Jenna Watson / Forum News Service University of North Dakota quarterback Ryan Bartels, right, may see time in the season opener, along with fellow redshirt freshman Joe Mollberg, says head coach Chris Mussman.

GRAND FORKS - The University of North Dakota's big question in fall camp has yet to be answered: Who will start at quarterback when UND opens its 2013 season Aug. 29 against Valparaiso?

Even after the opener, there still may not be total clarity as to the starter. And that doesn't seem to be a big problem for UND coach Chris Mussman, quarterbacks Joe Mollberg, Ryan Bartels and even the program's receivers - a group considered to be the deepest and most talented in school history.

The big story at the annual UND football media session Monday focused on the quarterback situation. Mollberg and Bartels are competing for the No. 1 spot as UND prepares for its second season in the Big Sky Conference.

Both quarterbacks, who have yet to take a collegiate snap, could play in UND's opener.

"We might do that intentionally so they get game experience and an opportunity to show what they're capable of doing when the lights go on," Mussman said. "Right now, they're neck and neck. They're typical redshirt freshmen. Both have been really good at times and both have made some mistakes.


"But those mistakes have diminished from spring ball. We're going to keep it competitive between the two."

Mollberg, from Detroit Lakes, Minn., and Bartels, from Sycamore, Ill., basically are splitting the reps as UND's fall camp gets into full swing this week. Both are confident of their abilities, yet supportive of whatever happens.

"It's a very good competition," said Mollberg. "We both have our strengths and weaknesses. Ryan is a good quarterback and he deserves to play. I believe the same about myself. We'll just have to keep competing and see what happens."

Bartels feels the same way.

"Both of us can do it," said Bartels. "We both want the spot but we have to find the guy who can get the ball to our receivers. Every day, we're trading plays. He'll make a good play and I'll make a good play. I think we'll be able to get the job done whoever they choose.

"Whatever happens, happens. If Joe does start, you're one injury away from playing. You never know. You just can't get lazy for the team. You have to be able to step in and perform like you want to be the No. 1 guy."

Last season, injuries forced UND to play two quarterbacks - Braden Hanson and Marcus Hendrickson. Both played considerably well and both put up impressive numbers.

"Obviously, you'd like to have everything solidified," said Mussman. "You'd like to have a No. 1 and a No. 2 right behind him and the No. 3 at the same level. But we find ourselves in a different situation. The big thing for us is to keep both healthy because I don't recall a year where we went through the season without using two quarterbacks."


Whoever wins the job will work with a talented receiving corps, led by All-American Greg Hardin.

Kenny Golladay, who played as a true freshman last season, also is in the mix for a breakout season after showing flashes of impressive play in 2012.

"It's definitely a good battle," Golladay said. "Whoever it'll be, the receiver's job is to make sure the quarterback is the best player on the offense. We're going to try and make their job real easy."

Nelson writes for the Grand Forks Herald

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