FARGO — If Randy Hedberg was more interested in astronomy than developing quarterbacks, he probably should have stayed at Southern Illinois, his previous employer. Saluki Stadium in Carbondale, Ill., was a host site for the longest viewing of Monday’s eclipse in the country.
The North Dakota State assistant coach had other matters on his mind with Fargo-Moorhead on the verge of an 89 percent shadow, however, like getting his five quarterbacks in tune to play. Most are in different stages of development.
Junior starter Easton Stick and senior backup Cole Davis have been around the block a few times and are advanced enough to lead a No. 2-ranked team in the FCS preseason coaches poll. Redshirt freshman Henry Van Dellen has the advantage of coming off spring football while true freshmen Holden Hotchkiss from Lakeland, Fla., and Noah Sanders from Lakeville, Minn., are just trying to tread water.
For the latter two, welcome to the world of college football.
“It’s always a slow process because the game is so much faster for the high school guys coming into the college game,” Hedberg said.
Translation: There’s more to it than throwing a football 10 yards for a completion. There are pass protections to learn. There are defensive coverages to recognize. And there are bigger guys to contend with.
Last Saturday, the Bison put Hotchkiss and Sanders live in a scrimmage situation instead of wearing the normal red jerseys that signifies for them not to be hit during practice. Hedberg said the result was a couple of fumbles.
“When you actually go live, you wish you were getting hit so you’re used to it,” Hotchkiss said. “I’ve been getting hit my whole life in football so it’s not anything new but when you get hit for the first time in college, it’s obviously something different than high school.”
“A lot bigger,” Hotchkiss said with a smile.
Hedberg said along with the quick learning curve for young quarterbacks comes frustration, something that is to be expected.
“It’s always tougher because they have a lot of things going through their minds,” he said. “They get frustrated, but once they get through it and get some time to absorb it, I think it gets better for them.”
Summer workouts are important to help ease the transition to the college game, Hedberg said. That’s where they’re introduced to the playbook, although NCAA rules prevent the coaches from working with them.
“Coming in and seeing the playbook for the first time, I thought it was going to take me a lot longer to learn it,” Hotchkiss said. “But once you’re in there and you have to learn it to get by through camp, it comes pretty quick. It’s still hard, I’m still learning new stuff every day.”
Also hard: consistency. Hotchkiss said he has some days where everything seems to be working and other days that don’t go so well.
“Those are the practices you have to look back on and see what you did wrong to be able to improve on it,” he said.