SPEARFISH — This spring for the first time in three years, there is a battle for the Black Hills State University starting quarterback position after the graduation of four-year starter Ryan Hommel.
That competition will go into the fall, and possibly into the season opener against Chadron State College Sept. 7.
That appears to be good for the Jackets and sophomore quarterbacks Tyler Hammons, Riley Glynn and Chance Eben.
With that competition, Hammons said they all get equal reps and a chance to show what they have.
“Everyone has done a great job so far. I wouldn’t say there is a head horse or anything so far, so it will be interesting going into the fall,” Hammons said Saturday after the annual Spring Game at Lyle Hare Stadium.
Hammons came into the spring with the most experience, replacing an injured Hommel last season, completing 53-of-106 passes for 533 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions.
“It definitely boosted my confidence and let me know I can play with these guys, it doesn’t matter where I am at,” Hammons said.
Competition, not only at quarterback, but with the team as a whole, has the team headed in the right direction after last season’s 3-8 stumble, Hammons believes.
“Everyone has bought in to BH football, and BH football is going to do great things next fall,” Hammons said. “Competition brings out the best of everybody, from O-linemen playing better, D-linemen playing better, receivers, corners, quarterbacks and running back. We’re going to have a product to watch this fall.”
The Jackets also have a new offensive coordinator this spring with Mitch Dahlen. All three quarterbacks are pleased with the direction the offense is going.
Eben said it has been an enjoyable spring under Dahlen.
“In my opinion, he really changed our offense, he turned our offense for the better,” Eben said. “He got us all on the same page and we all bought into his scheme. His scheme works for us, it fits our personality. The offense is playing great, the O-line is playing great. We have some good wide receivers on the outside, and it is just our job of facilitate things, keep the ball moving and score some touchdowns.”
Eben said all three quarterbacks have played well at times and all three have made mistakes. He said that is part of the learning process.
"It’s a competitive energy because we’re all pushing each other, and that makes us that much better,” he said. “Whoever (the starter) it is next fall, I know he will lead the team and we will win some games.”
Glynn said it was a good spring for them, considering they basically learned a new offense under Dahlen in the allotted 15 days of spring ball.
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“We had a lot of guys step up and be leaders, just taking advantage of it,” Glynn said. “We’re making improvements, and I am excited to see what happens this fall.”
With no starter back, Glynn said it has pushed all of the quarterbacks to be better.
“We always know that if we mess up, we have someone behind us that will come in and do it better. We have to be on our toes,” he said. “There’s a lot of studying at night with our playbook, making sure we know it to a tee. It’s also good because the offense gets to see the different quarterbacks timing-wise, which is huge with the receivers, the running backs and even the linemen.”
BHSU coach John Reiners said with the three vying for the starting spot, there is still a lot of work to be done before fall camp begins in August. He said all three know it as well.
“It comes down to we have to be better decision makers. We have to trust the pocket, we have to trust what is going on," he said. "If we can get to that point, obviously we have summer and fall camp to get ready. It is going to still be a battle for those three guys. We have to get after it, and we have to improve in that area. Anybody who knows football knows that is a very important position.”
The Green team held on to edge the White squad 12-10 in a scrimmage that was played on only half of the field because of the recent snowstorm.
Even though it was not an ideal situation, at the end of the day, Reiners said they got some extra reps and opportunities in, which is one of the objectives of spring ball.
Because of the half field, the offense started each drive on the 45-yard line. Reiners said they told the players to look at it as a quick-change situation, like a long kickoff return, an interception or a fumble.
He told them that the defense’s backs are going to be against the wall and the offense has an opportunity to score.
“You don’t always get the situations of being backed up like that, but at the end of the day, we’ll take whatever situation we can get," he said. "I thought we did well in some areas.”
There were two touchdowns — an 8-yard TD pass from Hammons to sophomore tight end Trig Olson, and a 46-yard touchdown pass from Glynn to sophomore wide receiver Mitch McKibbin. Junior placekicker Jacob Parks kicked three field goals, but also missed two attempts and one extra point.
No statistics were made available.
“When you look at it, it was very balanced,” Reiners said. “We had some big plays on offense and we had some big stops on defense. We had a couple of missed field goals and we have to get that shored up. We have to put points on the board when we get into the red zone.
“We also had some costly penalties and things down there that took us out of opportunities to score. I know Coach Dahlen is not happy about that. But I thought our defense did a good job with their backs against the wall. They did a good job of that bend-but-don’t-break mentality.”