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Wide receiver Tyson Carney looks the ball in during spring practice at the MDU Resources Community Bowl. Carney said it's been fun learning a new offense under head coach Craig Bagnell.

TOM STROMME, TRIBUNE

Playing wide receiver at the University of Mary the past couple of years has been a little like wandering in the wilderness.

But not anymore.

The run-heavy triple option attack has been scrapped for the spread offense, which still features the run, but also needs playmakers on the perimeter. Few are happier about the change than Tyson Carney.

Currently projected as a starter at wide receiver, along with Century High grad Luke Little, Carney said learning the new offense has been a blast.

“It’s totally different, but I love it. It’s been awesome,” said Carney, who will be a sophomore when fall camp rolls around. “What I really like about it is that we spread the ball around. Even if a run play is called, we still have options to pass. I think it’s going to be tough to defend.”

Last season, the Marauders’ leading receiver had just 11 catches. Carney and Little combined for only 12 – six each – but both also had a nose for the goal. Half of Little’s catches ended in touchdowns. Carney scored once.

Both will be counted on for much more this season.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge I welcome,” said Carney, a Malta, Mont., product. “We were a running team last year, but I think people are going to be surprised how fast we can be a good spread team.”

Getting the offense to hum properly required a new quarterback. Craig Bagnell found a big Californian for the job, although the new head coach has really liked what he’s seen from an incumbent, too. Jordan Velarde, a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder out of Blythe, Calif., was a big get in recruiting for the Marauders, but holdover Logan Nelson, a 6-5 sophomore, also has impressed.

“I’m really excited about our QBs,” Bagnell said. “Logan’s been pushing Jordan really hard the last few practices to where I’m splitting 1-reps between the two.”

The optimism stems from more than just what happens on the field.

“Mentally, it’s been fun for me because they’re always coming into the office and wanting to learn more,” said Bagnell, who owns most quarterbacking records at U-Mary from his playing days. “It’s exciting to see that even with all the hours they’re putting in, they’re still wanting more.”

Carney said the Marauders are in good shape at QB.

“With Jordan Velarde, Logan Nelson or Ryan Victorino, honestly, in my opinion I trust every one of them to go in on Saturday and do a good job,” Carney said.

The new offense will be on display today at 2:30 p.m. at the MDU Resources Community Bowl as the Marauders play their spring game. The day kicks off with tailgating at 11 a.m., followed by a youth football clinic from 12:30-2 p.m. Cost is $10 for the clinic.

With 14 practices in the books, Bagnell is excited to see his team for real, sort of.

“We try to put our guys in a lot of game-like situations and now Saturday it’s adding a degree of that game-day feel,” he said. “It’s not the same as an actual game, but this will give us a pretty good read on where we’re at right now in terms of simulating game-day situations.

“We’re going to turn them loose and let it roll.”

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