Justin Lane, a redshirt freshman transfer from Illinois State, will start at quarterback in Central Washington’s season-opener on Saturday.
The 6-foot-3, 206-pounder, who prepped at Lakewood of Arlington, was announced as the Wildcats’ No. 1 signal caller Monday by head coach John Picha, and barring injury later this week will take CWU’s first snap against Texas A&M-Kingsville in Tomlinson Stadium.
Picha made the call in conjunction with new quarterbacks coach Erik Meyer, the former Eastern Washington standout. The coaches, who Picha said will share offensive coordinator duties this season with Meyer calling the plays, had closely monitored competition between Lane and Jake Nelson, a redshirt freshman from Lake Stevens.
Preseason camp began on Aug. 14, five days after longtime assistant coach Picha was elevated to the top job in the wake of Blaine Bennett’s firing. The starting QB competition included Colin Walsh, a redshsirt sophomore from Troutdale, Ore., until Lane and Nelson gained the upper hand and took the majority of the snaps in Saturday’s scrimmage.
“The thing we feel good about is that we have three really good quarterbacks,” Picha said. “I’d be fine with any of the three playing for us, and we’ve had and will continue to have very good competition at that position. So we’re blessed there.”
Lane and Nelson (6-1, 205) are similar in size, and there appeared to be little difference between the two Saturday.
Meyer, named last month as the MVP in the Arena Football League as a member of the Spokane Shock, spoke highly of both players Saturday. Their role will not necessarily be that of trying not to lose games as opposed to winning them, he said, given their lack of experience and what appears to be a strong Central defense.
“They’re going to be called on to make some plays,” Meyer said, “but we all understand that they’re young quarterbacks and they’re learning and growing. One of the things they both need to remember is to not try to become a Zak Hill or a Mike Reilly, but to just develop and emerge as their own personality and player with their own skills.”
Picha also said Monday that Jordan Todd will start at running back, although Ishmael Stinson will see considerable action. The 5-foot-6, 186-pound Todd played well last year as a true freshman from Interlake of Bellevue while Stinson, a redshirt junior from Charles Wright Academy, missed virtually all of the season with a broken collarbone.
A player who won’t see action, Picha said, is middle linebacker Conrad Scheidt. The senior transfer from Idaho sat out Saturday’s scrimmage with a groin injury, and Picha said Monday he didn’t want to risk aggravating the problem.
“We’re hoping to have him for the bulk of our season,” he said, “so we’re not going to rush putting him back out there.”