It’s not often that backup quarterback is one of the featured position battles on a football team. However, for the Chattanooga Mocs, this has been a fun competition to watch this spring.
Returning Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year Jacob Huesman is entering his third season as the starting signal caller. The 6-1, 215-pound junior was No. 4 in the nation with a 68.3% completion percentage last year. He threw for 1,637 yards and 16 touchdowns while running for 894 yards and nine scores.
The starting spot is in excellent hands for the next two seasons. That said, reliable backups are critical at any level. The Mocs have a pair of strong candidates in Alejandro Bennifield and Tyler Roberson. Both redshirted as freshmen last season and have are enjoying very strong spring campaigns.
“They’re both looking good,” stated head coach Russ Huesman. “I’m pleased with both of those guys. I wouldn’t say one of them is ahead of the other right now. They’re both competing, and I like what they’re doing.”
Bennifield is a 6-2, 215-pound southpaw from Lovejoy, Ga. He was a two-star prospect and all-region performer as a senior at Lovejoy High School in 2012. Roberson is a 6-4, 210-pound all-state standout from Augusta Christian School in Martinez, Ga.
What makes this battle so interesting is they are getting the lion’s share of the snaps in practice. With Huesman comfortable in his role as the starter, all three have seen a similar amount of time under center in the spring. In both of the scrimmages, Huesman was in for less than a third of the plays, while Roberson and Bennfield split the rest.
“Both the guys are learning the system,” said offensive coordinator Jeff Durden. “They’re learning how to operate at a quick pace, which is not easy to do. We’re learning coverages, so not only are we learning our system, we’re learning the different coverages and the things that can happen.”
Both struggled in the first scrimmage, but showed flashes of what they are capable of. Roberson threw for 75 yards and two TDs, but was just 8-23 passing and had a pick. He also did not do much on the ground in the March 28 workout. Bennifield also threw for a pair of scores on 5-14 passing for 43 yards. He tacked on another 21 rushing yards on seven carries.
Fast forward to last week’s scrimmage and the improvement on the field was easy to see.
“Both of them had better scrimmages,” added Coach Huesman. “I thought they made strides...made improvements. They’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m pleased with the progress so far.”
In the second live workout, Bennifield showed off his arm with 104 yards and a TD on 6-8 passing. He also ran six times for 28 yards and a score. Roberson showed off his speed with a team-high 76 rushing yards and a TD on nine carries.
The backup spot won’t be set until training camp prior to the season, so there is still a lot more room for offseason work.
“I think just getting in the weight room and getting stronger, especially my arm,” was Roberson’s response when asked about what he needs to do to set himself apart. “Then just getting in the film room. I need to watch more film and get more familiar with coverages and stuff like that.”
Bennifield was just as focused when talking about his goals for the rest of the offseason.
“My speed, I’ve got to get my speed up,” he explained. “I feel like I can throw with anybody, but I have to get my speed up so I can run with everybody too.”
In the mean time, Jacob Huesman is also giving them advice about how to prepare for the backup position.
“Every week you have to prepare like you’re the starter,” he said. “No matter where you are on the depth chart. It’s a certain mentality, especially with the quarterback position. You have to be ready at any point in time and there can’t be any kind of gap.”
Bennifield and Roberson will have one more scrimmage to showcase their improvement at the annual Blue & Gold Spring Game on Friday, April 11. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. for the FREE Kids Clinic and kickoff for the Spring Game is 7:00 p.m.