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QBs vie for starting position

Fifth-year senior Drew Kummer takes some reps at a spring practice inside the new indoor football field Saturday morning.

Photo by Andrew Katko

By Grace Remington, Sports Editor

Ever since senior Andrew Hendrix took his final snap at quarterback with Miami football in November, the name of his successor remains an unanswered question.

Fifth-year senior Drew Kummer and redshirt freshman Gus Ragland are the two leading candidates.

"The nice thing is they're very similar style quarterbacks," head coach Chuck Martin said. "They're both good runners, they're both above-average throwers, they both need to improve on consistency with accuracy … it's one of the easier battles to compare because it's kind of apples to apples. We can run similar plays when they're both in there. It's tougher when you have a drop-back and a run-around guy. Then you have two different offenses, and it's harder to compare."

Neither contender has significant game experience. Kummer threw for 53 yards and one touchdown in two games in 2014. In 2013, he totaled 267 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 46 rushing yards and two TDs on the ground in 12 games. Ragland has never seen a snap.

Martin has worked with each QB for only one year, so the coaching staff continues to observe progress and differences in both candidates.

"I think the game comes easier for Drew. He can take more things from the meeting room. Now, Drew's older so he's more experienced, but I just think Drew has a more natural feel to the game of football. Gus is more of a 'teach it to me, let me rep it a few more times and I got it' type of guy. They're both very competitive. I think Gus is one of the most over-the-top competitive people in this program, regardless of position."

Kummer views his four years' experience in team practices as one of his strengths.

"Knowing the offense and being able to adjust as defenses give us different looks," Kummer said. "Being calm out there, reading defenses and knowing what's going on both sides of the ball."

When Martin arrived at Miami last year, a new playbook arrived with him, so both contenders have the same amount of exposure to those plays.

However, Martin says sheer knowledge of the plays "won't be an issue" when deciding the starter.

The quarterbacks continue to work on basics such as footwork and accuracy, but each candidate has specifics he is looking to improve in order to land the starting position.

"Getting in the film room, recognizing defenses," Ragland said. "Getting a little stronger in the weight room - my body still needs to get a little stronger to play at the level I want to play at. It's just about getting in there every day and working hard."

While Ragland learns the offense, Kummer works on how he can improve it.

"A few of the biggest things I'm working on are just being more consistent," Kummer said. "No bad plays, no turnovers, which I think I'm doing a pretty good job at right now. Just executing on plays."

After observing the RedHawk offense from the sidelines for one year, Ragland thinks his running game is an asset that sets him apart from other QBs.

"I can run the ball," Ragland said. "I think I have good moves. I'm still not where I need to be, I still have to work and get a little better, but that's probably my strength that most quarterbacks don't have."

Though Martin does not anticipate naming a starter anytime soon, both Kummer and Ragland are preparing as if they will take the opening snap Sept. 5 against Presbyterian College.

"If someone clearly wins the job this spring, that's fine, but I don't see that happening," Martin said. "Gus is just learning our offense, so if we were going to make a quick decision it would definitely be Kummer because he's ahead based just on being a fifth-year guy rather than a true freshman. … We're not in a hurry, our record's not great. If we were fighting for a conference championship this year I think we'd want to name one."

The coaches also have their eyes on Billy Bahl, an incoming freshman from Woodstock, Illinois. As team captain at Marian Central Catholic High School, Bahl led the football team to the state quarterfinals his senior year. He earned honorable mention all-state twice and first-team all-area as a senior. Bahl threw for 2,080 yards and 18 touchdowns in his final season.

"We think he's pretty good," Martin said. "We wouldn't mind getting him in the mix next fall camp. So it could be a three-way battle before this thing is all done."

Both Kummer and Ragland will get some game reps in Miami's spring scrimmage Saturday. The exhibition game begins at 1 p.m. in Yager Stadium.