As training camp comes to an end for the Golden Bears football squad, the team watched for who the U of A’s starting quarterback will be this season.
Third-year players Curtis Dell and Ryan Schwartz were the two top contenders competing for the position. While head coach Jeff Stead wants to have a starter selected soon, he still believes he could count on either player to do the job.
“They both started the camp trying to win the job from day one, and I think they were a little tight trying to make all the right throws and be perfect all the time,” Stead said.
“They’ve settled down, and the last few days have been phenomenal,” He continued. “They’ve been throwing the ball well and commanded respect in the huddle in the locker room, and right now, honestly, if we had to play tomorrow, I’d close my eyes and point and either one could go out there and be our starter on day one.”
The competition between Dell and Schwartz may have been the biggest story of the Bears’ camp, but other players stood out and surprised Stead with a strong showing this past week.
Freshman receiver Adam Wilson impressed the Bears staff, as did first year cornerback Jevan Buchi, who is part of a defence that will be the U of A’s strength this season.
“Our defence is our strength without a doubt. Our offence is young, but it’s also dynamic,” Stead said.
“The quicker they can come together and gel — whether it’s Curtis or Ryan behind center — the better we’re going to be, because our defence is fast and physical and they’re going to get a lot of steals this year.”
Last season the Golden Bears were a younger, less experienced team that didn’t win a single game in 2011. However, Stead believes the year of growth since the 2011 season has done the team a lot of good.
“Last year we were at a point where we hit our peak early in camp, and I’m not sure we necessarily got better at the rate I’d expect,” Stead said. “This year, these guys have gotten better every day, and that’s great because if we continue that throughout the season, they’re going to take us as far as we can go.”
As for last season, Stead has stated he’s the only person on the team allowed to talk about it. With a number of promising recruits for the Bears and a more experienced team overall, Stead sees a playoff appearance as a realistic goal for the team this year, with the potential to host a playoff game in the CanWest conference.
“That’s part of a growing process, and when you take over a program and you’re trying to restart and rebuild it, it takes time. These guys aren’t dumb — they understand the process,” Stead said.
“The guys that made the team have been out there competing, trying to find a spot on this team where they fit in. We’ve been preaching getting better every day, and we’ve been preaching the fact that we have an opportunity to turn this around quicker than anticipated and they’re excited about that.”
The Golden Bears’ season opens on the road against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Aug. 31, whose 5-3 record last season put them in second place in the Canada West conference.
“They have some experience in certain spots, but they’re starting with a new quarterback,” Stead said. “In the past we’ve come out of the gates fairly strong. We’ve had a good training camp, and playing them in game one will be a test to see where we’re at and where we need to improve on in areas for us that are our strengths.”
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