BELTON — Three weeks of fall camp and two scrimmages didn’t provide Mary Hardin-Baylor with a clear-cut answer as to who its starting quarterback will be, so the Crusaders will use the final few days before this week’s season opener to find more clues about the identity of its signal-caller.
“We’re still evaluating things,” UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg said Monday. “I thought Jace (Hammack) played better in the last scrimmage, after Luke (Poorman) had played better before then.”
Hammack and Poorman, a pair of junior transfers, have been the front-runners for the job since practices began last month, but another player is now in the mix to see time behind center.
Senior DeNerian Thomas — a do-it-all star during his high school days at Mart — spent his first three seasons at UMHB as a wide receiver but is now listed as a quarterback, a position he played during last week’s intrasquad scrimmage.
“It’s a numbers thing with some guys in front of him at receiver, so then you look at other spots where he could maybe help the team,” Fredenburg said. “In the past, DeNerian was always reluctant to be used in the wildcat (formation) but now he’s embracing the chance to do whatever he can to help this team his senior year.”
UMHB is ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division III and opens the season Saturday afternoon at Albright (0-1). Fredenburg said the decision on the starting quarterback will be made long before the Crusaders step on the field in Reading, Pa., to face the Lions.
“It won’t be a surprise,” he said. “I’m not as dramatic as some coaches.”
Whoever starts at quarterback won’t be the only new face on the field for the Crusaders, who have eight underclassmen listed on the first-string depth chart.
Of those underclassmen, the most experienced by far is sophomore free safety Jefferson Fritz, who started almost all of last season.
Also listed as starters on defense are sophomore linebacker Akeem Jackson, freshman linebacker Caleb High and freshman defensive end C.J. Kuehler.
The offense lists four sophomore starters — center Steven Sellers, tackle Azaviar Carter, guard DoRion Dreighton and tight end Ethan Owens.
“We’ve had some injuries at defensive end so we’ve had to shift some guys around,” Fredenburg said. “Every year, you have new guys who have to step up and play larger roles, and this team is no different.”
Who is Albright?
Albright is a private liberal arts college founded in 1856 in Reading, about an hour northwest of Philadelphia.
The Lions — members of the Middle Atlantic Conference — went 8-3 last year and opened their 2018 season last Saturday with a 48-14 loss on the road against Salisbury, which used its wishbone-style offense to rush for 654 yards.
“Offensively, (Albright is) a little like Redlands with the things they like to do and the way they deploy their players,” Fredenburg said. “Defensively, they usually run a four-man front but went to a three-man against Salisbury because I guess they thought it gave them a better chance to stop the option. After 654 yards, they probably went back to the drawing board.”
Saturday’s opener marks the first of three straight road games for UMHB, which begins the season with three games away from home for the first time in program history.
After facing the Lions, the Crusaders open American Southwest Conference action at Sul Ross State on Sept. 15 and visit Texas Lutheran on Sept. 22 before playing their home opener Sept. 29 against Southwestern.