By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Pittsburg State is set at starting quarterback.
Anthony Abenoja will return for his junior year after throwing for 2,330 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for three more scores a year ago.
But the role of Abenoja’s backup job is still up for grabs. And that battle — between Darrack Harger and Ramsey Hamilton — was a key part of Saturday’s spring game at Carnie Smith Stadium.
“Derek and Ramsey are the two guys who are really vying for Tony’s backup spot,” Pitt State offensive coordinator Steve Rampy said after the game. “We told them that at the beginning of spring. They’ve known it has been on the line. Each one of them have their own individual strengths, things they each do well.”
Darrack Harger, a 6-foot-4, 222-pound sophomore, was the backup as a true freshman a year ago. The Sand Springs, Okla., native played in just three games, completing six of 11 passes for 68 yards.
On Saturday he was 5-for-17 for 71 yards, an interception and a 45-yard touchdown pass to Gavin Lutman.
Hamilton is a 6-2, 200-pound redshirt freshman from Beggs, Okla. He showed his dual-threat capabilities on Saturday by rushing 12 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns while completing four of his seven passes for 48 yards.
“Obviously, we don’t want Abenoja to get hurt. He’s our guy,” Rampy said. “But we feel like if something does happen to him and he’s out a little bit, we can get some quality reps out of both those guys.”
Defensive coordinator Dave Wiemers said he is pleased with where his squad is at the end of the spring schedule.
A solid two-deep allowed coaches to take a long look at some underclassmen on the defensive side.
“I think our spring went really well,” Wiemers said. “We got to the point about halfway through spring where we started looking at the young ones because I think we feel pretty solid about our core.”
Wiemers said if there was one area of the defense that could use an extra piece or two, it would be the defensive line.
“The back end of our defense right now — linebacker through safety through corner — has depth, has talent, has experience. We feel really good,” he said. “Our D-line has to grow up together. I feel we’re really close and we hope we can add another one to the mix as we go and have eight guys up there we can roll through and play fast. I don’t think we’re quite there, but we’re close.”
The stage wasn’t quite as large this time around, but Pitt State fans likely experienced some deja vu in the fourth quarter on Saturday.
Junior corner back Aries Herrion was in the right place at the right time and returned a fumble 74 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
Herrion, of course, provided one of the biggest plays in Pitt State’s 2011 national title game win over Wayne State when he returned a blocked kick 80 yards for a score down the right sideline.