Fall Camp Countdown: Competition at QB

UTSA begins fall practices in less than one week. We continue our “Fall Camp Countdown” series looking at the Quarterbacks.

The position battle at Quarterback will be the most watched storyline of these upcoming fall practices. Last week, UTSA released a long-awaited depth chart that listed Redshirt Freshman Blake Bogenschutz as starting QB. But the discussion does not end there.

Position: Quarterback
Starter: Blake Bogenschutz, Rs Fr
Backups: Russell Bellomy, Sr Tr; Austin Robinson, So
Reserves: Jaylon Henderson, Fr; Manny Harris, Fr; Dalton Sturm, So

The graduation of three-year starter Eric Soza and the transfer of potential starter Zach Conque left the QB cupboard somewhat bare for UTSA in 2014. And the worst-case scenario came to fruition when all three of three scholarship QBs went down with injury at various points of the season. So UTSA re-loaded at that position adding two freshman, and senior transfer Russell Bellomy from Michigan. Now, as fall camp begins, UTSA is loaded with young and new talent.

Bogenschutz vs Bellomy

After a short courting period after being released from his scholarship, former Michigan QB Russell Bellomy decided to transfer to UTSA. His addition added instant depth to a position filled up young players. But what is addition also did was to create a bonafide position battle between himself and Bogenschutz this fall. During last week’s media day, UTSA Head Coach Larry Coker made the following comments regarding UTSA’s QB situation: “That position has to play well for you. I’m really excited about the quarterback situation we have. It’s going to be competitive. We have some good players there, we think. They’ve got to stay healthy and play well. The thing I like about the quarterback position that we have is that we have some talented guys that can get the balls in the hands of the playmakers.”

So let’s compare these two:

Blake Bogenschutz
As a true freshman, Bogenschutz saw action early in 2014. At Oklahoma State, the East Texas native started the second half. He kept UTSA in the game while scoring his only touchdown of the season on a QB keeper. It was a coming out part of sorts for the young signal caller who played relatively well in a very tough situation and environment. A few weeks later, Bogenschutz saw some action in relief duty vs New Mexico. In that outing, Bogenschutz went 10 for 16 passing for 169 yards. But he was intercepted once and sacked three times while the offense generally struggled. The next week he made his first career start vs Florida International where he suffered a break to his throwing hand late in the first quarter. Just like thtat, his season was over. In three partial games, we got just a small glimpse of what Bogenschutz was capable of. In the mold of an Eric Soza, Bogenschutz appeared to have a good command of the offense while be able to make reads on the fly to make plays with his feet. All told, Bogenschutz was 22 for 39 passing for 282 yards and 2 interceptions. He rushed 16 times for a net of 16 yards with one touchdown. None of those numbers blow you away. In fact, Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown wants his QBs to have a completion percentage of 60% or higher. Bogenschutz was under that in 2014. But the potential and poised he displayed under very tough circumstances makes him the perennial starter.

Russell Bellomy
The Arlington native becomes UTSA’s only upperclassman signal caller. Last week, Coker had this to say about Bellomy: “I don’t know how good Russell is. I think he’s pretty good. You can’t go out and watch them in the summer. I think our players know, they’ll have an opinion of Russell.” Although Bellomy has spent the summer on campus participating in unofficial workouts, we still no very little about him. In four seasons at Michigan, Bellomy played in just six games. In his career in Ann Arbor, he completed 4 out of 23 passes for 46 yards. He saw the most action of his career (5 games) in his sophomore season (2012). Originally out of Martin High School in Arlington, Bellomy was a three-star prospect who held offers from Boise State, Colorado, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan. Said to have a strong arm, Bellomy is a prototypical pro-style QB. Listed on UTSA’s depth chart at 6’3” and 220lbs, Bellomy appears to have all the physical tools one would expect from an athlete who has spent four years in an established Division 1 football strength and conditioning program. How that translates on to the football field is still a mystery. However, in his short time at UTSA so far it is said that Bellomy has a strong arm and has picked up the playbook and offensive scheme very quickly.

The Others

Austin Robinson is listed as “or” backup along with Bellomy. It’s certainly possible that Robinson will see some action this season. Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown has several specially designed plays for Robinson, who started 4 games last season (and played in 8). In those games, Robinson led his team to come from behind wins twice (vs FIU and vs Southern Miss) and nearly a third at La Tech. But right now, it appears Robinson will be behind Bogenschutz and Bellomy. UTSA typically dresses and travels three QBs so Robinson’s experience and athleticism is likely to come in hand at some point during the season.

True Freshman Jaylon Henderson and Manny Harris will likely run the scout team with walk-on Sophomore Dalton Sturm. Henderson was an early high school enrollee and got to workout with the team this past spring. Sturm, who saw some action in 2014, has proven himself as a capable backup.

The Bottom Line

From one year ago, UTSA has vastly improved their QB situation. However, barring injury this position battle will likely boil down to Bogenschutz vs Bellomy. Earlier in the summer, Coker indicated that we may see several QBs play in 2015 saying to a local television station “I think we'll have more than one quarterback." Bogenschutz has earned the starting role headed in the fall based on his performance in 2014 and a solid 2015 spring. However, at this point of his career, Bogenschutz has not locked up the role as the permanent starter. Coker’s statement last week: “It’s going to be competitive” is an indication of that. Another item of significance to note is that Bellomy sought out UTSA during his transfer process. As a Senior Transfer with only one year of eligibility left, Bellomy is expected to be given the same opportunity to earn playing time as anyone else on the roster. Bogenschutz is QB1 as fall practices begin. But just like last season, the QB1 that could change. If it does, it is likely to happen earlier in the season.

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