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Four guys throwing for starting spot for DWU

Sophomore quarterback Luke Stephens throws the ball during the Dakota Wesleyan University football team's practice Tuesday afternoon at the DWU campus. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

Dakota Wesleyan University's third-year head football coach Ross Cimpl likes that there's competition at the quarterback position.

"It's the most interesting part about that position," Cimpl said at his team's opening practice of fall camp Tuesday. "It's something that we haven't been used to for four years with Jon Bane as our returner."

DWU has four quarterbacks on its roster this season and the position is the team's biggest question mark. Fighting for the position are sophomore Luke Stephens, junior Andrew Paulson, freshman Dillon Turner and freshman Austin Buysse.

"We're taking it a day at a time and we're going to see how those players mesh and see who elevates their game," DWU offensive coordinator Josh Kotecki said Tuesday. "They've got big shoes to fill from last year and I think they've done a great job of being vocal so far."

Bane, a four-year starter, three for a school-record 9,224 yards and earned all-Great Plains Athletic Conference honors each of his last three years with DWU.

Stephens, who arrived at the university in early June, took the most reps for the Tigers Tuesday. But, Kotecki said there hasn't been a starting quarterback named.

"Luke's had a month and a half under his belt and he's taking more reps so we can function as an offense," Cimpl said. "It's going to come down to who takes advantage of their reps."

Kotecki added the coaches want to name a starting quarterback around Aug. 23, a day when DWU holds its annual scrimmage.

"We want to at least have a general idea going into that," he said.

The Tigers have eight seniors on the roster this season. Cimpl said although his team doesn't have many seniors, it does have veteran players returning who are confident in their positions.

"For the first day, the returning guys did very well," he said. "For the most part, I think they were confident in what they were supposed to do. Overall if you're comparing this year to my first two fall camp practices, I don't think there is a comparison. I think we're at a different spot as a team and I'm happy about that."

The Tigers were picked No. 21 in the NAIA preseason coaches' poll Monday. This is the first time DWU has cracked the top 25 in the preseason poll since Cimpl took over in 2012.

"Before we were working for that respect. Now, it's great to have that recognition and now we need to do our part," Cimpl said. "We can't play the underdog anymore, which is different for us and probably different for DWU in a long time."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.