HILLSDALE – The process of replacing former Hillsdale College quarterback Sam Landry began this spring.
Sophomore Mark LaPrairie has emerged as the team’s unofficial No. 1 signal caller but has big shoes to fill.
As a senior last season, Landry completed 217 passes for 2,509 yards, 16 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Laprairie, on the other hand, attempted and completed only one pass as a relief quarterback last year.
“I think that’s pretty much been determined here,” said Hillsdale coach Keith Otterbein when asked if LaPrairie will start this fall. “We haven’t had our finally meetings yet, and we’ll talk as a staff (before making a decision).”
Although he is a raw talent, LaPrairie possesses great qualities as a quarterback. He comes from a high school powerhouse in Rockford where his Rams appeared in three consecutive Division 1 semifinal playoff games. He set school records for single season touchdown passes (22), career touchdown passes (39) and career passing yards (3,784), among other historical marks.
Otterbein said he was delighted in how well LaPrairie played throughout the spring.
“Mark has done a good job of managing the football team,” Otterbein said. “He’s taken care of the football.”
If the season were to start today, junior quarterback Jacob Richter would be second on the Chargers’ depth chart while junior C.J. Mifsud would be third.
“From the way they’ve performed here in the spring, all have done some nice stuff and all have made some mistakes in trying to get better,” Otterbein said.
Five of the team’s seven quarterbacks are underclassmen, and only Laprairie and Richter saw live game action last season.
To give all the inexperienced quarterbacks more game-like reps during the spring game, Otterbein made the quarterbacks live for the defense to tackle.
“None of them have played college football so much,” Otterbein said. “Mark (LaPrairie) and (Jacob) Richter have played a few snaps, but basically they have to get used to getting hit.
“When we’re trying to figure out if a guy can handle it with the heat, if they have those red jerseys on, all of a sudden they think they’re bulletproof. We’ve had quite a few times where the quarterback has been live in practice.
“It’s always a roll of the dice if someone gets twisted up underneath a pile, but for us and those guys to maximize their snaps and growth potential, we just felt it better that they feel like they’re part of the action.”
Making the quarterbacks live also allowed coaches to see players use their full mechanics when making throws.
“The other part of it is on some of our sprint outs and some of our boots, it really makes it more of a realistic situation when he’s tackled and when he’s not tackled,” Otterbein said. “It lets the defense know that they have to get the guy on the ground for him to be tackled. It’s not a two-hand touch game.”
The obvious downside to making quarterbacks live is the risk of injury. Fortunately for the Chargers, no injuries were sustained by any of the quarterbacks throughout spring practices or the actual game.
“You always get nervous anytime you’re in a live situation or are banging bodies,” Otterbein said. “There’s potential for injury, so you always worry about that. We’ve had our share of guys banged up this spring, but I didn’t see anything bad today.”
Hillsdale kicks off its 2014 season by visiting Findlay at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6.
“I like this group, but it’s going to be young,” Otterbein said. “They’re going to have to grow up pretty fast as we get into the schedule with a tough opener down in Findlay. They’re going to be a good team right out of the blocks.
“We got to clean up here the last couple of weeks and finish strong academically. Then they’ll get a chance to take some time, catch their breath and get home.”
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