Billies quarterbacks competing for starting job
More than halfway through their two weeks of spring football practice, the Monticello Billies have a quarterback situation that’s similar to the one they were in a year ago.
That is except for the fact that each of Monticello’s three prospective quarterbacks are a bit more seasoned now, making it a situation Billies head coach Greg Tiner definitely likes.
“We’ve got a lot of guys pushing for that starting position and that’s going to make each of them better,” he said. “I like being in that situation where people are pushing each other.”
Like last year, Cole Connelley, Will Naron and Imani Riley are competing for the starting quarterback job.
Connelley, a rising senior, started every game but one last season, which was started by Naron, also a senior-to-be, who injured his hand in the first half of that game and was lost for the rest of the year after having surgery. Riley, a rising junior, saw some game action, too, most of it in mop-up duty late in games.
The biggest challenge the three of them likely face is learning to run plays from the pistol formation – a shorter version of the shotgun with a running back lined up behind the quarterback – which Tiner has installed for the coming season.
Riley, who took the majority of snaps last week while Naron and Connelley continued practicing and playing with the Billies’ baseball team, displayed a slightly higher comfort level while working from the pistol than did his older teammates on Tuesday.
But Connelley and Naron are learning quickly, they said.
“They just threw us into it when we got here,” said Connelley, who will also be playing middle linebacker this season, “which is what we needed.”
As far as the starting quarterback spot goes, Tiner said it will be treated like any other position.
“The plans are (to go with) whichever guy is getting it done,” he said.
All three quarterbacks are getting equal reps in practice and Connelley said there’s no animosity in the quarterback competition, adding that he and Naron are “like brothers.”
The units most in question for the Billies remain in front of the quarterbacks on the offensive and defensive lines, where Tiner is till looking for young players to step up.
“We’ve got some really young guys in spots,” he said. “They’re working hard and we’re getting a little bit better everyday. We’ve gotta find some guys up front that want to play, that want to mix it up and get after it with some people.”
Adding to Monticello’s line issues is the task of learning to accurately snap the ball to the quarterback in the pistol formation, which “is a totally different thing” for the centers, Tiner said.
Justin Avery, the Billies’ only senior lineman on either side of the ball, has been working at center.
The good news regarding Monticello’s situation up front, Tiner said, is that it’s only May and he’s already getting a good look at his players and will continue to as the Billies move into more team drills near the end of the week, he said.
“This is the great thing about spring football,” he said. “You get to use this as an evaluation.”