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Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published April 22 2014

UND still in pursuit of starting QB

Grand Forks - A year ago, the majority of discussion regarding University of North Dakota football centered on the starting quarterback.

Joe Mollberg and Ryan Bartels – both redshirt freshmen – went through spring ball and fall camp neck-and-neck to see who would start at quarterback. Mollberg eventually gained the starting nod, but both saw the field considerably during UND’s second season in the Big Sky Conference.

Fast forward to this season, and not much has changed.

With a new coaching staff in place, the starting quarterback position for UND’s 2014 opener at San Jose State on Aug. 28 is still up in the air as North Dakota is in its final week of the spring season at Memorial Stadium.

Four QBs took reps during UND’s scrimmage on Friday – sophomores Mollberg, Bartels, Jake Hanson and redshirt freshman Kurt Palandech.

Is a second straight season of questions surrounding the starting quarterback position frustrating?

“It is, but it isn’t, because we’re coming out here and being competitive again,” said Mollberg, who is from Detroit Lakes, Minn. “It’s driving us to get better. Eventually, we’ll find out who the guy is and go from there.”

Mollberg started seven games last season, completing 141 of 241 passes for 1,729 yards and seven touchdowns. His QB efficiency rating was 117.6.

Bartels started four games and completed 116 of 190 passes for 1,396 yards and eight TDs. His QB efficiency rating was 130.3.

Regardless of last season’s statistics, there is no No. 1 QB running drills at Memorial Stadium during the spring season.

“Each year, no matter who starts, it’s going to be a competition,” said Bartels. “You keep playing. It makes all of us better.”

UND coach Bubba Schweigert and his staff are using the spring season to evaluate all positions, no matter how many players were on the field last season.

“We’ll continue to give them reps and see who separates themselves,” Schweigert said.

The first extended live session of the spring season Friday was a mixed bag for the quarterbacks.

“We made a couple of plays that we can build on,” Schweigert said. “We need to be more consistent. That’s been our big thin. One day in skelly, we’ll be pretty sharp; the next day we’re not as sharp as we’d like to be.

“We’re looking for good, steady improvement, and that’s what we need to focus on in our last practices of the spring.”

Both quarterbacks say progress is being made during the spring season as they’re learning a new offensive system implemented by Schweigert.

“I think I fit this offense really well,” said Mollberg. “I think I can do a lot of things, throw the ball, run the ball and get the reads down.

“Hopefully, we’ll be more dynamic and get back to the run game, how UND should be. And I think we can throw the ball, too.”

Bartels feels the same way.

“There has been a huge increase in our confidence,” he said.


Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald