RENO - Nevada redshirt freshman Colin Kaepernick may have a year's less experience than sophomore Nick Graziano, but that hasn't stopped him from turning up the heat in their battle for Nevada's starting quarterback job.
Kaepernick took a step forward with his performance in Sunday's scrimmage at Mackay Stadium. He was 4-for-8 passing for 41 yards. His biggest contribution, however, came when he raced 59 yards on a fourth-and-4 play for a touchdown.
The performance didn't surprise head coach Chris Ault. He stated at the recent Western Athletic Conference Media Day that he expected a heated battle between Kaepernick and Graziano.
"You don't remember what I told you, do you," Ault asked a reporter. "I told everybody that this was going to be a fierce competition. It's far from over. Both guys have done a nice job. It's been a lot of fun coaching them.
"He (Kaepernick) looked real good (in the scrimmage). They both did. No matter who starts, we'll have two fine athletes at quarterback."
Kaepernick, who had a couple of good outings in the spring, said his performance on Sunday was a shot in the arm.
"It gives me a lot more confidence," Kaepernick said. "I still had some elementary mistakes. It's better to get those out of the way now. I misread a couple of coverages and my footwork wasn't as good as it needs to be.
"The spot is still up for grabs. I'm working hard every day trying to get that spot. It's a tough battle."
Indeed. Graziano, who saw some action in relief of Jeff Rowe a year ago, threw for 162 yards in the scrimmage. He won't go down without a fight.
One thing that has helped Kaepernick is a change in his throwing motion made during the off-season.
"He was releasing the ball like this," Ault said demonstrating with a throwing motion. "We changed his throwing motion. He is throwing the ball better than he ever has."
"Through high school and the first year here, I was throwing a little more sidearm," Kaepernick said. "I'm more consistent on all of my throws now."
Long, short and intermediate, Kaepernick can make all the throws. What sets him apart from a lot of quarterbacks is his running ability.
On that 59-yard scamper, Kaepernick outraced a cornerback to the end zone. It could be a sign of things to come. Ault has promised that the quarterbacks will run some option this year.
"I got a lot faster in the spring," Kaepernick said. "That's one of the big things I was trying to do."
Ault said that Kaepernick is a more fluid runner than Jeff Rowe, who led the Pack to consecutive bowl games, and that's saying something. Rowe was like Houdini at times with the way he escaped pressure.
"He's (Kaepernick) a long strider," Ault said. "We want quarterbacks to be able to run with the changes we've made in the offense."
As Ault pointed out, a running quarterback gives the opposing defense one more thing to worry about.
The 6-foot-6 Kaepernick was a three-sport star at Pittman High School, and he actually got more interest as a pitcher than a quarterback thanks to a 92-mile-per hour fastball. He said he was recruited by Notre Dame, Michigan and Tennessee. A pretty good group to be sure.
"Football is my passion," Kaepernick said. "I knew right from the start that I would only play football (here). A few Ivy League school said I could play both."
NOTES: Redshirt freshman Kevin Basped was given clearance to return to practice on Monday. Basped collapsed late last week because of dehydration, and was in the hospital overnight ... Center Kyle Robertson, who took a swing at line coach Chris Klenakis last week, was dismissed by Ault over the weekend.
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE KAEPERNICK FILE
Year: Redshirt freshman
High school: Pittman (Turlock, Calif.)