by Eric Uribe
The one constant in Wolf Pack football the past eight years has been electric quarterback play. Both Colin Kaepernick and Cody Fajardo lit up the gridiron and record books at Nevada (both signals callers are the only two in FBS history to pass for over 9,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards). Who will follow the two prolific players is the biggest question mark of spring camp, which started on March 30.
Battling to be the next quarterback in the lineage are three players — soon-to-be junior Tyler Stewart, sophomore Danté Mayes and redshirt freshman Hunter Fralick.
“I don’t care who wins the job,” Nevada head coach Brian Polian said. “I don’t have a horse in this race. I want the best guy for this team.”
Polian has vowed the quarterback competition won’t end on the April 25 Silver and Blue game. The battle will stretch into the summer and training camp. The 15-practice spring camp will be used to see which player gets the early leg up. Perhaps the front-runner for the job is Stewart, who is the lone player of the trio who has thrown a pass in college. Two years ago after injuries to Fajardo and back-up Devin Combs, the then-freshman was thrust into the starting role against Hawaii. Stewart answered the call, going 14- of-20 for 202 yards and three touchdowns in a victory.
“The Hawaii moment wasn’t too big for him,” Polian said. “He conducted himself well. My opinion of him was not whole after our first year together. Last year, I started to appreciate the way he prepared.”
As a back-up to Fajardo last season, Polian said Stewart would study game tape after dinner every Tuesday and Wednesday with Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich. Despite not seeing playing time last season, Stewart’s preparation spoke volumes about his maturity. Aside from his study habits, the 6-foot-4 and 220-pound Stewart became more open to criticism from coaches, too.
Nevada running back Don Jackson said the usually quiet Stewart has begun to come out of his shell more often, looking to lead his teammates. Which quarterback emerges as a leader might be one of the biggest deciding factors. Polian said age doesn’t matter in that department, pointing toward 19-year-old Fralick as a clear example.
“He’s got some of that ‘it’ factor that you’re looking for in a quarterback, where people will look to him,” Polian said. “He seems to get along with every cross section of the football team.”
Fralick, a Spanish Springs High graduate, is the popular vote among many fans. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has a skillset more equipped for the Pistol offense, whereas Stewart is more of a pocket passer. Mayes, who is the smallest of the trio at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, has dual-threat capabilities like Fralick, too.
The play-calling will be tweaked to the strengths of the quarterback who wins the starting job, according to Polian. Polian says all three quarterbacks will rotate reps between the No. 1, 2 and 3 units during spring camp. He said he’ll be spending extra time during quarterback meeting, too.
While Polian doesn’t care which player entrenches himself as the starter, he does care about what the signal caller brings to the team.
“I want to see us making good decision and taking care of the football,” Polian said. “I’m not necessarily worried about who the most athletic is or who the most polished passer is. The quarterback is the nerve center of the team. It’s more than just about statistics. It’s about a lot of other intangibles.”
Eric Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Uribe_Eric.