It's not an easy job, but somebody's gotta do it.
And there are several who want to do it — be the starting quarterback for the Tarleton State University Texans football team this season. Head coach Todd Whitten is taking a close look in the preseason as he has to find a replacement for Zed Woerner, the program's all-time passing leader.
“We're going to have a quarterback battle going through the next three weeks,” Whitten said at the team's media day in early August. “Then, we're going to choose the guy that gives us the best chance to win. They will all have their chance, and we'll see who that is."
The search for a new starting quarterback comes as Whitten continues to work to turn the program around. In his first season back at the helm in 2016, the Texans improved from 3-7 to 5-6 (5-4 in the Lone Star Conference), and last season they were 6-6 (4-4 in the LSC).
Whitten is in his third stint at Tarleton, where he is 56-35 overall. In 1996, he turned the Texans around from 1-10 to 5-5 before leaving to be the offensive coordinator at Wyoming and Sam Houston State. He returned from 2000-04, leading the Texans to a 33-14 record in that span, including their first LSC title and first NCAA Division II playoff berth and a 10-3 record in 2001, followed by another playoff appearance in 2003.
Whitten won't say who the frontrunner is, or if there even is one. The two most experienced are seniors Derek Kiser and Ben Holmes. Kiser has been backup QB the past three seasons, and Holmes was on the practice squad last season after transferring in following a sterling two-year career at Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York.
“Derek's the older guy who been around and has taken some really good snaps for us when asked,” Whitten said. “He's stepped up and done well when we needed.
“Ben was one of the most decorated junior college quarterbacks in the country.”
Other quarterbacks on the roster entering the season's first practices were redshirt freshmen Cade Schrader and Hunter Turbeville.
Kiser saw action in five games last season, completing 41 of 70 passes for 399 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. The Texans were 2-1 in games in which he posted statistics.
As a sophomore he played in three games. He got the starting nod against Midwestern State, throwing for 298 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 21-16 loss. As a redshirt freshman in 2015, he played in two games, going 16-for-21 for 202 yards and three touchdowns in a come-from-behind 48-47 win over Oklahoma Panhandle State.
“Being in a role behind Zed was a great learning experience,” Kiser said. “It's about taking advantage of an opportunity. Being a good backup means being ready to fill in and be a leader. Now, I'm preparing as hard as I can to be the leader as a starter.”
Holmes was a junior college All-American at Nassau, also being named freshman of he year, player of the year, and a bowl game MVP after leading the Lions to a 10-0 record in 2014. He set team records for passing, completions, rushing by a quarterback, and all-purpose yards, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 29 touchdowns in 18 career games.
Holmes, however, has not played in a game since 2015.
“I’m super anxious to play again. Football is my whole life,” Holmes said. "I was sort of lost there for a little bit."
Like Kiser, Holmes said he is excited about the quarterback battle. And though it's been a little while, he's counting on his experience at Nassau to help him.
“I think competition brings the best out of certain people,” he said. “I play my best when there's a guy just as good or better right behind me.
“The league I played in was very high level. I saw (NCAA) Division I guys every week.”
Along with finding a new starting quarterback, the Texans are going to be filling some gaps in the receiving corps. As the quarterback and receivers settle into the season, it is comforting to know they have the entire starting offensive line and a plethora of depth at running back, Whitten said.
Five wide receivers will be out there for the first time,” Whitten said. “We've got a great stable of running backs. Being able to run effectively is extremely critical.”
Seniors Xavier Turner (808 yards, 11 TD) and Adam Berryman (418 yards 5 TD), along with junior Daniel McCants (329 yards, 2 TD) are all back. Also, redshirt junior D'Anthony Hopkins joins the squad following a standout career at Blinn, which included rushing for 1,114 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2016.
“It's really critical for us to have a great season running the ball. And it's definitely a blessing to be that guy to get the ball in his hands, pushing the ball downfield,” Turner said.
“It really does give you a comfort zone,” Holmes said of the experience of the running backs and offensive line. “Those guys are great up front. I trust those guys with my life.”
Kiser said ultimately, winning is the main goal for the team, no matter who wins the starting quarterback job. And with a roster that includes 30 seniors, the Texans appear poised to be contenders in the LSC, especially with the right man calling signals.
“It's going to be exciting,” Kiser said. “I want the job, obviously, but in the end it doesn't matter who is leading, we want nothing but the best for each other.”