ACC: Skylar Jones

Wake still unsettled at quarterback

March, 22, 2011
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Despite the return of 2010 starter Tanner Price, Wake Forest's quarterback job is still an open competition this spring, and the staff is still looking for more from Price, Ted Stachitas and Brendan Cross. The decision of Skylar Jones to transfer won't have a huge impact on the group, as Jones was No. 4 on the depth chart. The staff wanted him to stay -- Wake Forest actually used all four quarterbacks in 2010 -- but Jones wanted to be the starter and the coaches couldn't promise him that.

The Deacs have only had two spring practices heading into today, but as of right now, Price is No. 1 on the depth chart, followed by Stachitas and Cross.

Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said the staff didn't help Price last year, as they asked him to do too much as a true freshman and changed offenses about three times during the season.

"We just need to settle on an offense and get him a thousand reps in it," Lobotzke said. "It’s not a locked-up job, either. Ted could take that job. Brandon Cross could surprise everybody and take that job. We’re still letting them compete. I don’t think anyone is playing well enough to really be the team we want to be offensively. It’s just going to take reps. We've thrown a lot at them in two practices. Once they settle down and get used to what were calling right now, they’ll play better.

"Our bar is very high. We’re not quite there yet with any of them."

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 21, 2011
3/21/11
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Monday, Monday ...

Season recap: Wake Forest

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
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Growing pains were expected, considering the Wake Forest Demon Deacons had to replace the most winning quarterback in school history, but even coach Jim Grobe and his staff probably didn’t expect it to be quite so painful.

Wake Forest won its first two games and then tumbled into the season finale at Vanderbilt riding a nine-game losing streak. There is a myriad of reasons for the problems, but it started at quarterback when injuries to Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones changed the offense and the course of the season. The Deacs were forced to turn to true freshman Tanner Price, and while he has given the staff reasons to be confident moving forward, he wasn’t ready to start his career with back-to-back road trips at Stanford and Florida State.

Statistically, Wake Forest was one of the worst teams in the country in nearly every major offensive and defensive category, but one of the most troubling was the 110th ranked scoring defense, which allowed 35.83 points per game. It couldn’t get off the field, and the offense couldn’t stay on.

A lack of fourth and fifth-year seniors forced Grobe to play more young players than he would have liked, but that experience should only help in the future.

Offensive MVP: Running back Josh Harris. He led the team with 720 yards rushing including 241 at Virginia Tech and 138 at Vanderbilt. He had a team-high seven rushing touchdowns and 65.5 yards per game.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Hunter Haynes. He was the Deacs’ most consistent defender and led the team with 77 tackles. He also had 6.5 TFL and 2.5 sacks.

Turning point: The 28-27 loss to Navy was so disheartening to the Deacs they might have let it beat them more than once. For the second straight week, Wake had lost to a triple option team with less than 30 seconds left to play. This loss decreased the program’s chances of getting to a bowl game, and sunk the Deacs to 2-4 with back-to-back road trips to Virginia Tech and Maryland looming.

What’s next: Wake Forest can take some positive momentum from its win over Vanderbilt into the offseason, but in the bigger picture, the program needs to rebuild the depth that has afforded Grobe the luxury of redshirting almost every player who comes into the program. The staff needs to finish this recruiting class strong and continue to develop the younger players who were forced to help early this year.

QB play the key for Wake Forest

November, 23, 2010
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Heading into this season, Wake Forest had spent the entire offseason preparing as if quarterbacks Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones would be running their offense, but injuries to those players early changed the game plan -- and the entire season.

[+] EnlargeTanner Price
Sean Meyers/Icon SMITanner Price has rewritten the record book for Wake Forest freshman QBs this season.
“A lot of the spring preparation and August preparation to be a gun-option team kind of went out the window," said coach Jim Grobe, "and we ended up scrambling from about the third game of the season on.”

Enter true freshman quarterback Tanner Price.

Price has started six of the past seven games, starting with the Sept. 18 game at Stanford. He’s one of three true freshmen to start for the Deacs this year, the most under Grobe. It’s been an up-and-down season for Price, but one that Grobe is convinced can be built upon heading into the future.

Price set almost every school single-game passing record in his first home start on Oct. 9 against Navy. He completed 37 of 53 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns. It was the best performance by a true freshman quarterback in Wake Forest history. He now has seven touchdown passes, breaking the previous mark for true freshmen of three set by Anthony Young in 2000.

His 151 passing yards against Clemson brought his season total to 1,276 yards, breaking the previous record of 1,070 held by David Webber. Price also eclipsed Webber’s record for most completions by a true freshman (101) with 127.

Grobe said he is expecting even better things from Price next year and should have a reliable backup with Jones still in the mix.

“Honestly, I feel great about the progress we’ve made with Tanner,” Grobe said. “It’s not showing in wins right now, but I thought against a really tough, physical Clemson defense this past weekend, Tanner really grew up. … Going forward, you’re talking about a kid in Tanner that didn’t have the benefit of spring practice, and being a true freshman, he’s going to improve physically here in the offseason. I couldn’t be happier to be honest with you with Tanner Price’s development.”

Future is bright for ACC QBs?

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
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This wasn't the plan.

The ACC was supposed to have experience at quarterback this year, with FSU's Christian Ponder, Miami's Jacory Harris, Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt, and even an "old pro" in BC's Dave Shinskie.

Now, heading into Week 11, it adds up to this: Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington will become the eighth ACC quarterback to make his starting debut this year. He joins Miami's Stephen Morris, BC's Chase Rettig, Duke's Sean Renfree, Maryland's Danny O'Brien, and everyone on Wake's roster (well, ok, not everyone, but Ted Stachitas, Skylar Jones, and Tanner Price.)

Rettig, Morris and Price are all true freshmen. Brandon Connette, a backup quarterback who has seen significant playing time at Duke, is also a true freshman. Backup E.J. Manuel could start this weekend against Clemson at Ponder's expense, and Clemson backup Tajh Boyd has also seen some time this year.

While their youth an inexperience has accounted for some bumps along the way, the valuable reps now could bode well for the future of the position in the conference.

Midseason report: Wake Forest

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
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Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Record: 2-4 (1-2 ACC)

It wasn’t replacing the winningest quarterback in school history that has been the problem for the Deacs, it was keeping all four of those replacements healthy. True freshman Tanner Price has proven capable of taking over for Riley Skinner, but he suffered a concussion against Florida State, and backups Ted Stachitas and Brendan Cross were also injured, leaving the offense in the hands of Skylar Jones against Georgia Tech. The young defense has struggled to stop the run, is ranked last in the ACC in total defense, and has allowed 36.8 points per game. When the defense showed measurable improvement against Florida State, the offense came up empty. Since opening the season with back-to-back wins over unheralded Presbyterian and Duke, Wake has since lost four straight, putting their bowl hopes in serious jeopardy.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback Tanner Price. The true freshman is as good as advertised. He leads the team in total offense with 158.8 yards per game and has only started three games. He has the best completion percentage of the quarterbacks (58.7) and set a school record for pass completions by a true freshman (19). He has also accounted for three rushing touchdowns and his four passing touchdowns are the most in school history by a true freshman quarterback.

Defensive MVP: Kyle Wilber. He was sidelined with a broken leg for seven games last year and has returned with fervor. He’s tied for the conference lead in sacks with five and he leads the ACC and the country in tackles for loss with 12.5. He is also tied for second in the ACC with three forced fumbles, and made a career-high 11 tackles and two sacks at Florida State. He had three tackles for loss at Stanford.

ACC's lunchtime links

October, 8, 2010
10/08/10
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Is there anything going right for Carolina off the field?

Wake's defense improves, offense is hurting

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
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Wake Forest backup quarterback Skylar Jones has turf toe. Backup Brendan Cross has a sore non-throwing shoulder. And Ted Stachitas will be out.

The good news for the Deacs is that true freshman Tanner Price should be ready to go after suffering a concussion two weeks ago against Florida State.

With so many injuries at quarterback, coach Jim Grobe said it's been impossible to find any consistency. Three quarterbacks played in Saturday's loss to Georgia Tech, and the first two -- Stachitas and Cross --left with injuries.

"It's impossible," Grobe said. "It's not a tough job, it's an impossible job. One of the things that you worry about is the amount of reps you give guys during the week. Last week we gave each quarterback a third of the reps because we didn't know who would be the best guy in the game or who would be the most durable, and as it turned out, we needed all three."

If Wake Forest can find some stability at quarterback and get the same effort from the defense against Navy on Saturday that it gave in the loss to Georgia Tech last weekend, the Deacs could get their first win since Sept. 11 against Duke. Wake has the advantage of facing a similar triple-option offense two weeks in a row.

On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets rushed 48 times for 209 yards. It marked the fewest rushing yards allowed by the Demon Deacons in seven games against Paul Johnson's triple-option offense (dating to Paul Johnson's arrival at Navy in 2002. Georgia Tech had entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in rushing, averaging 320 yards per game.

"It lets us know that we're capable of playing against the offense," Grobe said. "We can certainly look at things we did wrong, so we can correct those mistakes. One of the issues is that Navy now has a good bead on us. They saw how we attacked Georgia Tech, so they'll have a pretty good plan and have some wrinkles for us that we don't expect. One of the other issues is that we're beat up a little bit. That's a physical offense, and to go against it two weeks in a row makes it tough."

Redshirt senior linebacker Matt Woodlief has had three of his best games against triple-option teams. He had eight tackles against Georgia Tech on Saturday. He also had 12 against Navy last year and six against Georgia Tech in 2009. Woodlief’s three tackles for loss against Georgia Tech on Saturday also represented a career-high.

Still, Georgia Tech is not Navy.

"Georgia Tech isn't the same offense at Navy," noseguard Nikita Whitlock said. "They're a little bit more powerhouse and they hit you a little bit harder. But, Navy is more like technicians. When they cut you, they're going to cut you, so be ready for it. When they come at you with your helmets, make sure you have your shin guards on and your hands down because Navy is tenacious. They're really good at what they do. But playing the option against Georgia Tech really helped us."

Pillow fight in Winston-Salem

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
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Wake Forest went to the half with a 10-6 lead over Georgia Tech thanks in large part to Brandon Pendergrass' run up the middle on fourth down. The Yellow Jackets are again struggling on defense and Wake Forest has once again tried all of its healthy options at quarterback, relying the most on the mobility of Skylar Jones.

On Georgia Tech's final possession of the first half, the Jackets weren't able to convert on third down because receiver Stephen Hill couldn't make the play. At some point, Joshua Nesbitt's receivers have to help him out. Orwin Smith did that in the third quarter, catching a 14-yard pass on third-and-15. The Jackets were able to sustain the drive on fourth-and-one.

Would you believe Wake Forest has more rushing yards and Georgia Tech has more passing yards?

The difference so far has been turnovers, with Georgia Tech continuing to have trouble holding onto the ball for the second straight week.

Deacs not afraid to play Tanner Price

August, 31, 2010
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Ted Stachitas is the new starting quarterback at Wake Forest -- he won the job by being the most consistent this summer.

But don't be surprised to see true freshman Tanner Price at some point this season -- possibly as early as the season opener Thursday evening against Presbyterian.

"You might see Tanner," coach Jim Grobe said at his weekly press conference. "We won't be afraid to play him, but we will have to have a need to play him. If Ted plays really well, we might be a little more hesitant to play Tanner and instead look at Skylar Jones or Brendan Cross. He's right there and is very competitive to play. Ted might be No. 1, but Tanner is a close second."

Grobe has a reputation for redshirting the majority of his players, but Price has been as good as advertised this summer. The last time Grobe used a freshman quarterback -- albeit a redshirt freshman -- Riley Skinner led the Deacs to the 2006 ACC championship.

Still, Price is listed as No. 2 on this week's depth chart, and it's Stachitas' job to lose. He was 14-of-22 for 302 yards in three preseason scrimmages, but as he said, "I haven't played a football game in about three years."

He's not alone. Nobody on Wake's roster has thrown a collegiate pass yet.

The good news for the Deacs is that they open with an unheralded opponent that should provide an opportunity to work the kinks out. Entering its fourth season at the FCS level, Presbyterian went 0-11 overall and 0-6 in the Big South Conference last season.

Wake Forest doesn't have much additional time for a learning curve, as the Deacs face Duke in Week 2 in a game that will help determine their bowl possibilities.

"It's certainly better that we start with a nonconference opponent -- there is no question," Grobe said. "You really don't want to start with a conference team. This is a good game for us to start with since we have an inexperienced quarterback. I'd be really concerned if we were starting with an ACC opponent right out of the blocks. We have a good football team coming to town the very next week from the ACC, so it will be good to get a game under our belt against a nonconference team."

Wake QB Ted Stachitas wins starting job

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
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Wake Forest quarterback Ted Stachitas has won the starting job and his backup will be true freshman Tanner Price, according to a school spokesman.

The Demon Deacons have one more scrimmage on Thursday, but it's unlikely any performances will change coach Jim Grobe's mind. Stachitas won the job this summer from Skylar Jones, who finished spring practices at the top of the depth chart while Stachitas was out with a hamstring injury.

None of the quarterbacks on Wake's roster have completed a collegiate pass, but Stachitas did play six snaps in the fourth quarter against Elon last year. He's had the lead through the second half of summer camp.

The more surprising move is Price to No. 2. For a true freshman to come in and win the backup job speaks volumes about his ability and staff's confidence in him. Price is an injury away from taking over the offense, and most people know Grobe's disenchantment with playing true freshmen. All reports from camp this summer have been glowing about Price. He should be the Deacs' quarterback of the future.

For now, though, it's Stachitas' job.

Wake scrimmage highlights: QB competition continues

August, 19, 2010
8/19/10
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Wake Forest scrimmaged again on Thursday evening, and the quarterback competition still isn't settled.

Brendan Cross completed 11 of 13 attempts for 104 yards and rushed for 61 yards and three touchdowns. The Deacs scored on three of his first four drives.

“(Brendan) looked really good today, I thought,” said Grobe, according to the team's practice report. “Some of his throws could have looked a little prettier, but he got the job done. He took the offense on three really good drives. I was impressed with Brendan, I thought he did some really good stuff."

Freshman Tanner Price went 9-of-16 passing for 116 yards and a touchdown. Skylar Jones completed 8 of 12 passes for 99 yards, and also scored on a 65-yard touchdown run. Ted Stachitas completed five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown.

“We’ve got to go back to when we started and compile what they’ve done,” said Grobe. “I will say, if you come on strong at the end and the other guys fade, that’s another thing you’ve got to look at. I thought Brandon did some good things today. He’s obviously competing hard."

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage highlights

August, 16, 2010
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Ahh, scrimmages. They're almost like real games, right? Nope. Still, something to hold us over.

Here's a look back at the weekend scrimmages for schools that provided scrimmage reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

There's a running back other than Montel Harris capable of making some plays. True freshman Andre Williams led the running game with seven carries for 59 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown run.

Quarterback Dave Shinskie completed 9 of 14 pass attempts for 81 yards and a touchdown. Senior tight end Jordon McMichael led all receivers with four catches for 23 yards.

Defensively, true freshman linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis led the Eagles with five tackles. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dillon Quinn made three sacks, which should be an encouraging sign to a line in need of some help.

Redshirt freshman kicker Nate Freese went 2-for-3, making from 24 and 44, but missing a 46-yarder off the left upright. Junior Ryan Quigley made from 33 and missed from 34.

CLEMSON

Quarterback Kyle Parker threw three touchdowns passes -- two to running back Andre Ellington -- in Clemson’s two-hour scrimmage in Death Valley on Saturday morning. It was the second scrimmage for the Tigers.

Parker completed 10-of-14 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns. He led the first-team offense to four touchdowns overall. Roderick McDowell led the rushers with 12 carries for 127 yards on the ground, including a 12-yard touchdown run and a 53-yard run early in the scrimmage.

Terrance Ashe led the receivers with five catches for 76 yards, including a 44-yard completion from Parker.

The defense was led by Brandon Maye, who had six tackles, including a tackle for loss and a diving backwards interception from his linebacker position.

GEORGIA TECH

Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt was the highlight of the Jackets' scrimmage. He opened the scrimmage with a 70-yard scoring drive and had a two-yard touchdown run and a six-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Hill. Defensively, true freshman Louis Young and sophomore linebacker Julian Burnett had interceptions.

VIRGINIA TECH

The kickers were the highlight of the second scrimmage, as the offense didn't score a touchdown. Part of that was because the coaching staff stopped drives inside the 20, because the staff hasn't installed its entire red-zone package. The staff is expected to make a decision on its backup quarterback situation soon.

Here are the Hokies' stats leaders from Saturday:

RUSHING
Darren Evans 12-60
David Wilson 6-33
Ryan Williams 4-18

PASSING
Logan Thomas 9-17-0-82
Tyrod Taylor 5-7-0-42
Ju-Ju Clayton 3-8-0-36

RECEIVING
Marcus Davis 2-15
Austin Fuller 2-20

FIELD GOALS
Chris Hazley made four: 29 yards, 43, 48 and 31

TACKLES
Derek DiNardo, 6

WAKE FOREST

The Deacs scrimmaged for 90 minutes on Saturday in the first of three scrimmages, and the quarterback race continues.

RUSHING
Josh Harris 5-76 and 1 TD
Skylar Jones 10-44
Patrick Thompson 7-29

PASSING
Tanner Price 8-13 for 82 yards
Patrick Thompson 3-10 for 61 yds and an INT
Ted Stachitas 5-of-8 for 95 yds and 1 TD
Skylar Jones 4-of-7 for 27 yds
Brendan Cross 2-of-3 for 16 yds

RECEIVING
Devon Brown 4-67
Marshall Williams 3-79

FIELD GOALS
Jimmy Newman made three, 27 yards, 38 and 25

TACKLES
Justin Jackson, 7

Freshman Joe LaBarbera intercepted Thompson late in the scrimmage and returned it 25 yards.

Ranking the ACC's quarterbacks

August, 13, 2010
8/13/10
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This is one of the most difficult positions to rank, and it’s a good, veteran group in the ACC this year. The strength and experience at quarterback is a main reason why expectations are higher for the conference as a whole this year. Only three programs will introduce new quarterbacks this fall, and because of their inexperience, they rank last by default. The competition is still open at several schools. Here’s how the ACC quarterbacks stack up heading into the fall:

1. Christian Ponder, Florida State: He averaged 321.8 yards of total offense in nine starts last year, a number that would have been the sixth best total in ACC history had he played one more game in order to have reached the NCAA minimum standard for games played.

2. Russell Wilson, NC State: He ranks fifth in school history in career passing yards (4,982), second in passing efficiency (141.94), and third in touchdowns (48). His 31 touchdown passes last year ranked fourth nationally and led the ACC.

3. Joshua Nesbitt, Georgia Tech: His 2,079 rushing yards are the most by a quarterback in school history and he needs just 692 more to become the top rushing quarterback in ACC history. He had over 1,000 yards rushing and passing last year.

4. Jacory Harris, Miami: He is the ACC’s leading returner in passing average per game with 257.8 yards, and he completed 59.6 percent of his passes. He became the first quarterback since Ken Dorsey in 2002 to throw for 3,000 yards.

5. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech: This should be his best season, as he made huge strides last year, leading the ACC with a 149.4 passing efficiency. He threw 13 touchdowns and five interceptions for 2,311 yards.

6. Kyle Parker, Clemson: He set freshman school records for touchdown passes (20), completions (205) and passing yards (2,526). He was also a first-round draft pick for the Colorado Rockies.

7. T.J. Yates, North Carolina: He ranked ninth in the ACC in both passing average per game and pass efficiency. He threw 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, but that should improve this fall as the players around him have improved.

8. Marc Verica, Virginia: He took over the starting job in 2008 and finished the year with 2,037 passing yards and completed 63.8 percent, but he threw eight touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He was much more accurate and made better decisions this past spring.

9. Dave Shinskie, Boston College: At 25, Shinskie was a freshman last year and he made freshman mistakes, throwing 14 interceptions along the way. Still, he set BC freshman passing records with 2,049 yards and 15 touchdowns.

10. Sean Renfree, Duke: He’s tasked with replacing four-year starter Thaddeus Lewis, and has minimal experience. As Lewis’ backup last year, Renfree completed 34-of-50 passes for 330 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions before suffering a season-ending knee injury against Georgia Tech on Nov. 14.

11. Jamarr Robinson, Maryland: He takes over for Chris Turner, and should provide more options in the playbook because of his athleticism. Robinson ran for 129 yards against Virginia Tech, and in the two games he started last year threw for 459 yards and ran for 229 more.

12. Skylar Jones, Wake Forest: This competition is still ongoing, as it’s the first time since 1957 that the Wake Forest has had zero passing attempts among its returning quarterbacks, but Jones entered fall camp atop the depth chart after spending some time at wide receiver last year.

Opening camp: Wake Forest

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
2:00
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Schedule: Practice is from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

What’s new: With a new face at quarterback, Wake Forest’s offense is likely to run the ball more. Former quarterback Riley Skinner was an excellent passer, but not the swiftest of foot. Expect a different dimension to be added to the Demon Deacons’ offense.

Sidelined: Nobody on the two-deep roster is expected to be missing.

Key battle: Quarterback. No surprise here. Skylar Jones enters practice atop the depth chart, but some of that is simply because he was the healthiest of the group, and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke likes to say “durability equals dependability.” Ted Stachitas, who had a hamstring injury this spring, will be competing for the job, along with redshirt freshman Brendan Cross, who suffered a concussion in the spring. True freshman Tanner Price has also impressed his teammates in offseason workouts.

New on the scene: Redshirt sophomore receiver Terence Davis. He redshirted in 2008, tore his ACL in 2009 and missed 2010 spring practices. He’s finally back, healthy and ready to contribute.

Breaking out: Cornerback Kenny Okoro. He started each of the final eight games at corner and developed into one of Wake’s top players on defense. He led the team with three interceptions and tied for the team lead with eight pass breakups. He clinched the win over NC State when he intercepted a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone with 2:02 left to play. The kid can move -- he’s getting his minor in dance.

Don’t forget about: Running back Josh Adams. He was the ACC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007, but his production has dropped off the past two seasons. The staff is hoping he gets back to his freshman form.

All eyes on: The quarterback, whoever it might be. This is one of the best competitions in the league this summer and will be the main factor in whether or not the Deacs can get back to the postseason.

Quotable: "Durability will be a key because when you go back to running the football you're going to ask your quarterback to run it some. I don't know how much, but probably whoever the guy is, that will depend on how much we run it with the quarterback. He's going to have to be a durable guy. The most durable guy this spring was Skylar Jones. That's why he came out number one. Ted Stachitas had a pulled hamstring in the spring and Brendan Cross missed a few practices with a concussion. I think with what we're going to do with our offense, it wouldn't surprise me if we ended up using more than one guy." -- Coach Jim Grobe

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