Editor’s Note: Above Image: Tommy Bowden (center) and Kyle King (right) work out side-by-side in a preseason practice (Photo provided by the UMHB Athletics Department)
BELTON, Texas- Following Saturday’s 52-7 victory over Southwestern, UMHB head coach Pete Fredenburg responded to a round of questions about the possibility of a competition for the starting quarterback spot between current starter Tommy Bowden, and backup Kyle King, stating, “Yeah I think [we might see some competition for the starting job this week]. Kyle looked pretty good…[Tommy] has to walk a fine line because he knows he’s being pushed.”
Bowden dazzled the crowd in Saturday’s victory with several phenomenal runs, the longest coming after he avoided a sack and raced 59 yards downfield, breaking seven tackles after fighting away from two Southwestern defensive lineman who tried to pull down the 195 lb. sophomore from Brownwood.
While Bowden was fast on his feet, his confidence in throwing the ball was lacking, according to Fredenburg, and has kept him from maximizing his potential and taking full advantage of the Cru’s speedy receiving corps. With Bowden having made strides in his passing ability over the last several months, completing just 7 of 17 passes this Saturday was not what Fredenburg was expecting to see in the home opener.
“I do think that Tommy does a great job of executing our offense,” said Fredenburg. “I think it is confidence, just having the ability to move a little bit, avoid the rush and get his feet set. I think he sometimes throws from an unbalanced stance which I think creates bad throws. We’re going to work really hard to correct that.”
“I was surprised and disappointed,” said Fredenburg of Bowden’s passing on Saturday. “We focused in, trying to get an idea of why [he had trouble throwing]. We think we have a good feel on how we can help him with that. Now it is just a matter of him taking control.”
With the Cru maintaining a big lead, but the passing game sputtering, King was given an opportunity to lead the offense at the end of the third quarter. While not exhibiting highly explosive speed, King ran the ball effectively and showed poise in the pocket. He found the open man and threw the ball with a high degree of accuracy, hitting his receivers in on target and in stride. The junior from Milano, Texas, ended up 7-of-8 on passing attempts for a total of 90 yards.
The question remains as to who will be leading the Crusaders when they face off against ETBU this coming Saturday, and if there will be complementary use of their different skill sets with planned substitutions or offensive packages. Perhaps this is still unknown even to Fredenburg and the coaching staff at this time, relying on this week’s practices to clear things up as the game plan is installed and rhythm is established.
“We’ll have them both ready to go,” said Fredenburg. “I think obviously Tommy needs to take the responsibility of leading the team. When he runs, he does an incredible job, we certainly want to utilize those abilities that he has, but he has to be able to stop, set up and throw the ball down the field. Kyle does a nice job, he’s a great competitor. I think you’ll see some competition this week.”
The idea of a two-quarterback system brings to mind UMHB’s prolific 2018 national championship offense, in which junior Jase Hammack was the starter and primary passer, while speedy backup De’Nerian Thomas was frequently utilized in a wildcat package, often running the ball out of Run-Pass Option (RPO) sets. Fredenburg said Monday that using a two-quarterback system is “always a possibility”.
“That’s always a possibility,” said Fredenburg after an extended pause. “I think we’re still in the process of developing [Tommy]. He’s like a piece of clay, he is so dynamic. Again, I think the finished product will be something special. We use Kyle a lot in a lot of different situations. We’re just trying to put it all together right now, make sure that we’re utilizing the talent that we have on this team, and obviously that starts with our wide receivers and getting them the ball.”
At the end of the day, the starting quarterback job will not be decided by the fans or media. Fredenburg and his staff will make evaluations during this week’s practices to determine who will start this coming Saturday. This is undoubtedly a difficult challenge for them, having two talented quarterbacks with very different styles and abilities, and both of them still developing and improving.
Ultimately this is a great problem for the Cru to have, as this provides much needed depth at a critical position and presents a broader array of tools for the coaches to utilize against opposing defenses. Only time will tell to see who shows the necessary leadership skills and ability to take the reins of the 2021 UMHB offense.