Arnoldink or Smith?

MOUNT PLEASANT - Grant Arnoldink or Kent Smith? That has been the No. 1 question all year for the Central Michigan University football team as the two have battled neck-and-neck for the starting quarterback job.

While new Chippewa head coach Brian Kelly has not announced his choice as the starter for the season-opener at Indiana University on Sept. 4, he did say, "Both will play, I can tell you that much."

If push comes to shove and Kelly had to make a decision right now, he said Grant Arnoldink may have a slight edge.

"Whoever becomes our quarterback has to be reliable and consistent," Kelly said. "We need somebody to manage the offense and minimize mistakes."

Arnoldink, who saw action in three games in each of the last two seasons but has not lettered, is a 6-4, 233-pound senior who came to CMU as a preferred walk-on. He's 14-of-31 lifetime for 144 yards and one TD.

"Grant has the leadership qualities to be a quarterback and the respect of the offensive football team," Kelly said. "He has a good grasp of what we need to do but he has to be more efficient in the passing game."

Kelly would like his quarterbacks throwing completions at a rate of 68-72 percent. Arnoldink has been at 55 percent during training camp.

Kent Smith, a 6-5, 209-pound junior, did not play in 2003 but lettered in 2002. He hit on 10-of-32 passes that year for 96 yards and a TD and rushed 15 times for 106 yards and another score.

"Kent has good field presence and can see from sideline to sideline," said Kelly. "He moves well and has playmaking capabilities."

Smith, however, has been completing passes at only a 48 percent clip.

Should neither quarterback establish himself as what Kelly is looking for, don't be surprised if redshirt freshman Nick Gildersleeve works his way into contention.

"Nick has made great progress and has impressed me with his ability to make plays," Kelly said. "He doesn't have the complete grasp of the offense yet but if we're not solid at No. 1, he'll have a chance to get into the mix."

The Chippewas will return to action on Sept. 11 at Michigan State before coming home to Kelly/Shorts Stadium for three straight games -- Sept. 18 vs. Southeast Missouri, Oct. 2 vs. Kent State and Oct. 9 vs. Bowling Green.

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