Florida Atlantic University hasn't had a quarterback competition in five years. But that's all about to change in one offseason.
With the departure of senior quarterback Jeff Van Camp, a new quarterback competition is brewing between redshirt juniors Graham Wilbert and David Kooi.
"Last spring there wasn't as much pressure on us, for me and Graham, to get things done," Kooi said in regard to the difference between this spring and last. "This year, this is actually our team now, so one of us has to step up."
Wilbert served as Van Camp's backup last season and was the early favorite to win the job this spring.
Throughout the spring Wilbert worked to improve his footwork, accuracy and consistency among other aspects of his game. But the one thing he is confident in is his mentality.
"Just really mentally knowing what everyone's got to do," he said about his biggest strength, "and taking control of everything and running things the way they should be run."
Kooi had his share of struggles throughout the spring, with accuracy and holding strong in the pocket, but he showed progress as practices wore on. His biggest strengths, including his arm strength, were on display.
"I think I gradually got better," he said. "I started off a little slow but as it went on I got a lot better. I’ve still got a lot to learn. It’s a mental game being a quarterback, especially in this offense.”
With the competition set to roll over into training camp, Kooi recognizes the importance of working hard to improve his play in the offense.
"I’ve just got to get better and go into camp strong," Kooi said, "and try to win the starting job."
With the battle for the starting role expected to intensify heading into training camp in August, is there going to be any strain amongst the friends?
"We're buds," Wilbert said. "We're going to be buds no matter what happens."
The highly touted quarterback competition that began at the start of spring football hit a standstill following FAU's Spring Game on April 23.
Wilbert, who was the presumed front-runner for the starting job, sustained an injury to his index finger when his hand smacked into the hand of defender David Hinds as he followed through on a pass just before the end of the first half.
Wilbert spent the remainder of the afternoon as a spectator on the sidelines.
"I lost reps today, which I am pretty bummed about," he said. "I don't like any setbacks and I won't be able to workout or throw for awhile, but we'll see what happens."
But Wilbert believes that the injury to his index finger isn't as bad as the broken thumb injury that he suffered last year during a game against the University of South Florida, an injury that required surgery and kept him out for the remainder of the season.
"I'll be fine," Wilbert said. "It's not nearly as bad. I'm not going to need surgery, but it's probably too early to tell."
An X-ray revealed that Wilbert's finger wasn't broken, just badly bent. He will miss four to six weeks as offseason conditioning gets underway but he should be healthy by the start of training camp in August, said Coach Howard Schnellenberger.
But the twist in the story surrounding the quarterback competition came from Schnellenberger himself.
During a postgame press conference following the spring game, Schnellenberger said that the battle for the starting quarterback job is as unclear as ever with Wilbert's injury.
What was thought to be a two-man race for the starting job, between Wilbert and Kooi, will turn into a three-man race between Wilbert, Kooi and redshirt freshman Nick Bracewell.
"It's needless for us to talk about who's No. 1 for a long time," Schnellenberger said.
Let the games begin.