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Published: Thursday, 3/24/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

All starting positions open in Falcon spring practice

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Schilz Schilz
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BOWLING GREEN -- Last season Matt Schilz earned the starting quarterback job for the Bowling Green State University football team. He played well at times, especially when you consider that he was a redshirt freshman, throwing for 2,223 yards and eight touchdowns.

But this spring, as the Falcons begin spring practices, Schilz has learned a hard reality: No member of the Falcon football team is guaranteed a job this coming fall.

BG began its spring practice schedule last week in preparation for the Spring Game, which will be played Friday, April 15 at Perry Stadium, and coach Dave Clawson has declared an open competition for every starter's spot.

The increased competition this spring is how it should be, even though seven starters return on each side of the ball. That's because the Falcons finished 2-10 last season, 1-7 in the Mid-American Conference.

If Schilz is bothered by the competition, he certainly isn't showing it.

"I think it's good for me, because the competition makes me better," he said. "I have to come out here every day and play my best -- I can't take a day off.

"Every position is open right now. Everybody is battling, and it's the type of competition we haven't had here before. It's a good thing."

As Clawson prepares for his third season on the job, he said the team is looking to accomplish three goals this spring. The first is to simply assure that his players understand the systems the Falcons are running.

"It's hard to believe, but of all the MAC schools we are now the third-most established staff in terms of our systems -- only two schools have had coaches there longer than we have," he said. "By year three, your systems need to be up and running, so we have to have a good knowledge base and thorough understanding of what we're doing."

The second is to increase the competition for jobs all over the football field.

While every player begins this spring on equal footing, there are a few who have at least a slight edge based on last year's performance. That group includes returning All-MAC players such as Dwayne Woods, a linebacker who ranked among the national leaders in tackles last season with 134 in 12 games; Kamar Jorden, a wide receiver who caught 96 passes for 1,109 yards and four TDs; Chris Jones, a defensive tackle whose 39 stops last season included 11 tackles for loss; and Eugene Cooper, a wide receiver who ranked among the national leaders with his average of 11.5 yards per punt return.

"Guys like Chris Jones and Dwayne Woods were all-conference players last year, but we've got good young players at those positions," Clawson explained. "Maybe the competition (at their position) isn't so much who starts. But if we can get to a level where we don't have to play Chris Jones for 70 plays, but 50 plays, now we're a better football team because we have more players, and we're fresher."

Clawson said the third goal of the spring is to become a physically tougher team.

"This sticks out from last season: we have to start becoming a more physical football team," he said. "Quite simply that means running the ball better on defense and defending the run better on defense."

Last year the Falcons were the worst rushing team in the Division I FCS subdivision, averaging just 62.83 rushing yards per game, and the run defense gave up 207.42 yards per contest, which ranked 112th out of 120 schools.

As for the quarterback derby between Schilz and Trent Hurley, a freshman who redshirted last season, Clawson said there's no rush to determine a starter before this fall.

"Right now we're just loading them both up with reps," Clawson said. "We've got to get them both ready. As we saw last year, you need to have two quarterbacks. It is a competition, but right now we're more concerned with making sure both of those guys are playing at a high level than necessarily picking who the starter is."

Hurley said getting on-field experience will be important to his development. "The reps are important because you can only learn so much in the film room and watching [from the sidelines]," Hurley said. "To get better, you have to take reps. It's extremely helpful to get so many reps and a chance to learn so much more."

BG will hold its fifth spring practice this morning, and Clawson said the first four have been an exciting time for he and his staff.

"The practice is so much better because we've got guys competing for jobs," he said. "It's a great tempo, good energy, things are competitve, every rep means something. It's exciting to have that.

"We've got good players, we've got depth, and we've got youth. And those are the types of players who really have a chance to improve over a spring. It is really fun to go out there every day and see these young players get better."

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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