Stewart beats out Fralick for Pack QB job

Sports fodder for a Friday morning... The Nevada Wolf Pack made the safe and smart choice by naming Tyler Stewart as its starting quarterback for the 2015 season. The 21-year-old Stewart began studying the pistol offense under head coach Chris Ault back in 2012. He was the starting quarterback that gave coach Brian Polian his first Division I-A victory and first Mountain West victory (both over Hawaii in 2013). He completed seven passes against Florida State the season (2013) the Seminoles won the national championship. Stewart is big (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and strong, highly intelligent, cool under pressure, stands tall and confident in the pocket and has a strong and accurate arm. Above all else he will do what his coaches tell him to do. He doesn’t do anything great but he does everything well. He really was the only real choice to quarterback this team this season simply because nobody else was ready (Hunter Fralick, Dante Mayes) or eligible (Austin Kafentzis).

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Fralick, the former Spanish Springs High quarterback, seemingly had a legitimate chance to win the starting job but never could separate himself from Stewart. And while he’s merely a sprained ankle, concussion or knee injury away from taking over the offense from Stewart, one has to wonder if Fralick is ever going to get another legitimate opportunity to become the starter. Kafentzis, who has four years remaining, is eligible starting no later than 2016. He didn’t abandon Wisconsin to come sit the bench at Nevada. Stewart will be a senior in 2016, with a full year (if all goes well) of starting under his belt. Fralick seems destined to become the next Tyler Lantrip, wearing a headset on the sideline and waiting for an injury.

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Stewart, though, could also become the next Lantrip. Don’t forget Lantrip, who spent three years as Colin Kaepernick’s understudy, was the starting quarterback for the first four games of 2011. It turns out, as most everyone suspected, Ault just didn’t want Oregon, Texas Tech and Boise State to devour and crush the confidence of freshman Cody Fajardo in the first four games of 2011. Fajardo took over in Week 5 when the schedule softened up. That might be what Polian has in mind with Fralick (or Kafentzis if he’s ruled eligible by then) starting in Week 4 once the tough games against Arizona and Texas A&M in Weeks 2 and 3 are over.

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The guess here, though, is Stewart is going to be just fine. He will likely be more than fine. Arizona and Texas A&M’s bark is worse than their bite. So even if the Pack loses both of those games Stewart and the offense should be able to put up solid numbers. Don’t forget Stewart stood in there, took a beating and completed seven passes against that great Florida State team on the road in 2013. Stewart isn’t going to be afraid of Arizona and Texas A&M. That’s his greatest strength — his confidence, coolness and calmness under fire. Stewart knows this offense. All he has to do is what he did against Hawaii two years ago — flip a few short passes out to the tight end, find an open wide receiver once in a while, hand off to Don Jackson and James Butler and run the ball himself now and then to keep the defenses honest. Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich will take care of him. Rolovich won’t ask Stewart to be Kaepernick or Fajardo.

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Stewart was a highly recruited quarterback coming out of Sierra Canyon High in Chatsworth, Calif. He was brought to Nevada by Ault to run Ault’s baby, his pistol offense. Stewart wore No. 10 (Kaepernick’s Pack number) in an all dark blue uniform that looked suspiciously like the uniform worn by the 2010 Wolf Pack. He originally committed to San Jose State (like Fajardo) but Hawaii, Fresno State, Colorado State and others also wanted him. He threw for 32 touchdowns and was intercepted just twice his senior year when he won a state title. He studied under Fajardo, the second-best quarterback to ever run the pistol. He’s been preparing for this opportunity for three years. He’s earned it.

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The Pack could put a helmet and shoulder pads on Alphie or Wolfie or whatever they are calling their furry mascot these days, line him up at quarterback and still probably find itself with a record of no worse than 7-3 heading into the final two games at Utah State and San Diego State. The schedule this year has been engineered for success with UC Davis, Buffalo, UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming, Hawaii and San Jose State on the calendar in the first 10 weeks. If the Pack loses any of those seven games, it won’t be the quarterback’s fault.

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It’s time the NFL copies college football and does away with all pre-season games. If college football can take a bunch of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors and mold them into a team after three weeks or so of practices, the NFL can certainly do the same with a bunch of men who have been playing the game most of their lives. Pre-season games are nothing more than glorified scrimmages. They are meaningless affairs set up mainly to gouge season ticket holders and sponsors. Most of the players in pre-season games will be selling insurance, tires, stocks or beer by the time the regular season starts. Coaches don’t even trust what they see in pre-season games. If they do, well, they will likely find themselves selling insurance, tires, stocks or beer the following season. Or working for ESPN.

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Curt Schilling, found time during his Little League World Series announcing duties on ESPN to compare Muslims to Nazi-era Germans on Twitter. And, of course, ESPN suspended him and Schilling quickly apologized. ESPN should have given him a raise and more air time. Why are they wasting Schilling’s enormous talents to incite and embarrass himself on the Little League World Series? Your mom could do the announcing on the Little League World Series. Schilling, who prides himself on silly, uninformed and narrow-minded theories straight out of the 1860s, is never boring. He’s basically Charles Barkley if Barkley thought of himself as an intellectual. Schilling is fascinating. He’s Donald Trump with a bloody sock and 216 career victories. In short, he’s the antithesis of all the vapid, simpletons (see Dan Patrick, Rich Eisen, any number of NFL and college sports show hosts) that filled ESPN. It’s time to give Schilling his own talk show.



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