Crawford tabbed as starter under center for opener

Chris Mangan

Chris Mangan

The Jackrabbit football team has named a starting quarterback for the home opener against Georgia Southern on Sept. 12.

SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier announced on Aug. 31 that fifth-year senior Ryan Crawford would be under center in the season opener against the Eagles.

“(The quarterback competition) was a battle,” Stiegelmeier said. “I don’t think it was the way you wanted it to drag out, yet we felt everyone deserved a shot.

“In the end, where our hearts were, also our minds were, where our grades were, and that was with Ryan,” he said.

Crawford, an Oro Valley, Ariz. native, was the backup quarterback last year behind Ryan Berry and saw action in six games. In the game against North Dakota State, Crawford took over after Berry suffered a concussion and went 10-of-13 for 50 yards and a touchdown.

Crawford has had to overcome some adversity this offseason. In the win against the Bison, Crawford broke his wrist, and doctors said he might not be able to play again.

“I wasn’t going to let a doctor tell me I couldn’t play again,” Crawford said.

Maturity and leadership is what set Crawford apart from the other three candidates: Lee Mondol, Thomas O’Brien and Mike Whittier, Stiegelmeier said.

“I think his leadership is the best right now,” Stiegelmeier said. “I’m not saying they aren’t good leaders, I’m just saying he’s been here. He’s on his fifth year; he understands our system.”

While Crawford will be under center in the opener, a lot of things can change throughout the year, even as early as the “first quarter” in the Georgia Southern game, said Stiegelmeier.

“I don’t say that with any threat or pressure on Ryan. I don’t say that with any joking approach,” Steigelmeier said. “That’s our philosophy.

“If you have a guy that goes in and something isn’t going right or he’s injured, you can’t stick your head in the sand,” he said. “You owe it to the football team to do anything you can to win football games.

“If Ryan does what he believes he can do, he (will be the starter). He’s got to do that,” Stiegelmeier said. “He hasn’t had the opportunity yet.”

O’Brien and Whittier are battling for the second-string quarterback. O’Brien, a redshirt freshman, has the biggest arm and perhaps the most big-play potential, while Whittier, a transfer from the Air Force Prep Academy, might be the most athletic. While O’Brien has already used up his redshirt, Whittier has the option of redshirting.

“We talked briefly about that,” Stiegelmeier said. “That’s up to him.

“If he’s the guy that has to win a football game at some time or a bunch of football games in the season, we aren’t going to make that decision,” he said. “He can travel, he can go through all the practices, if he doesn’t play a play he has that option.

“Right now, I don’t think that is what he wants to hear. What he wants to do is get that second spot and be ready to be number one at some point,” Stiegelmeier said.

While the decision on who would start for quarterback for the Jacks wasn’t made until now, Stiegelmeier doesn’t think the wait will hurt SDSU.

“Most things that hamper us, we choose to let them hamper us,” Stiegelmeier said. “Most weeks we get the final film Sunday night, we’ve got a number of practices. The only hampering would be what we do ourselves.”

Kickoff for the Jackrabbit game against Georgia Southern on Sept. 12 is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.

The Jackrabbits are coming off a 7-5 season, along with a 6-2 record and third-place finish in their first year in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

The Jackrabbits were tabbed to finish third in the 2009 MVFC 2009 preseason poll. Northern Iowa is picked to win the MFVC.