SIOUX CITY — The mystery as to who will be the starting quarterback for the Morningside football team wasn’t solved at the team media day on Wednesday, but it won’t be long until everyone — including the two candidates — learns of coach Steve Ryan’s decision.
Ryan and the Mustangs are down to two men for the No. 1 quarterback job, senior Addison Ross and sophomore Joe Dolincheck.
“We’re trying to make Coach Ryan’s job as hard as possible,” Ross said.
Ryan, who is entering his 17th season with the Mustangs, will announce his final decision on Sunday. Morningside opens its season at noon on Aug. 31 at Elwood Olsen Stadium against St. Francis of Illinois.
The decision has been a hard one, according to Ryan.
“Every day, I say name a No. 1 and here’s the No. 2 based upon how you practice the day before and by watching film, and it’s been back-and-forth,” Ryan said. “They have an idea that the competition is so hard, especially at quarterback. We are going to go with one guy.”
Ryan will be looking for two things: Whether a candidate can handle the volume of offense and which quarterback can better handle pressure.
“We’re getting in a situation where we’re going to put a lot of pressure on them and see how well they can do with it,” Ryan said. “That’s what set Trent (Solsma) apart from so many people that you don’t think about. He dealt so well in pressure situations.”
Both men found out at Wednesday’s practice how much Ryan was going to handle the pressure. Ryan and Dolincheck know there’s pressure and big shoes to fill with Solsma’s departure.
Over the last two seasons, Ross was the J-back for the Mustangs. In the 2018 national-championship season, Ross caught 34 passes from Solsma for 425 yards and had six touchdowns.
In 2016, Ross was the backup quarterback to Solsma, and even as the No. 2 quarterback, Ross had 59 completions and seven touchdowns.
Ross’ biggest challenge in the offseason was to get pick up the speed of the game at quarterback again. As a J-back, Ross had one responsibility and that was to cover the edge.
Ross has much more to think about as a quarterback, but Dolincheck has helped his senior teammate get reacquainted with the technical side of the game.
“(Joe) was in the quarterback room a lot last year,” Ross said. “It’s a lot of the little details and stuff, footwork, my step to the target, keeping my elbow at the right ankle, things like that.”
Dolincheck, meanwhile, threw 34 passes in 2018, and he completed 21. He amassed 227 yards and threw two touchdowns.
The sophomore from Bellevue, Nebraska, is confident that whoever Ryan chooses will help the Mustangs repeat as Great Plains Athletic Conference champions and national champions.
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“I’m just out there trying to lead the team to success and get another national championship,” Dolincheck said. “I’m more of a passing quarterback, and I’m ready to take a hit in the pocket.”
Dolincheck may not have to take hits, as the former Nebraska high school state champion gets the ball out quickly to the receiving corps.
“He’s a very accurate thrower, and he has good vision on the field,” Ryan said.
While it is a competition, Ross and Dolincheck have remained close.
“It’s definitely a competition, but when it comes down to it, we’re on the same team,” Ross said. “We’re trying to help each other every day. It’s a healthy competition. It’s not really hostile.”
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The other offensive skill players are noticing how close the competition is, too.
Morningside running back Arnijae Ponder trusts both Ross and Dolincheck to get the job done regardless of Ryan’s decision.
“Both of those guys are still ready to go, and I’m excited to see them,” Ponder said. “I’m comfortable behind each one. I’m comfortable behind Addison, because I know he’s going to make the right read. He’s going to get me the ball on plays when I need to have it instead of pulling it.”
Ponder competed against Dolincheck when the junior running back played at Omaha Burke, and knows his tendencies from the high school days.
“I know how he clicks, and I know how he plays his style of football,” said Ponder of Dolincheck. “He’s very competitive, and I like that about him. He’s a young guy, and that’s very exciting to me.”