Viking out to prove his strength
Bulkier Kavanaugh thinks he has enough arm to be in QB mix
Connor Kavanaugh would give an arm and both legs to be Portland State's starting quarterback.
And that's about what it might take.
Kavanaugh, the all-stater from Lincoln High, enters his redshirt freshman season No. 4 on the PSU depth chart. In spring ball, which began Monday, he needs to impress coach Jerry Glanville and offensive coordinator Mouse Davis with his arm strength and, to a lesser degree, his ability to scramble out of trouble.
Kavanaugh says he's ready.
'There's no doubt in my mind I could step out there (in a game) and do some things,' he says.
Moving Lincoln's offense in games was never a problem for him, but moving up the ladder in PSU practice is a big challenge. Kavanaugh spent last season running the scout team. That is typical duty for a new freshman, although his West Hall dorm roommate Drew Hubel, a 6-5, 195-pound rookie from Corvallis, got the call when two other QBs were injured and wound up passing for 1,470 yards and 15 touchdowns.
'The thing we were most concerned about with Connor was his arm strength,' Davis says. 'He's a great little athlete and a very bright guy. If he has the arm strength and accuracy, then he's got a legitimate shot. He's probably our most mobile quarterback, the guy with the most athletic ability with the football under his arm.'
Workouts added pounds
Kavanaugh says he is better equipped now, physically. He lists himself at 5-11 1/2, 185 pounds, 13 pounds heavier than a year ago.
'I'm a lot stronger and faster,' he says. 'The workouts I've been doing the last six months are probably the hardest things I've done in my life, other than run the 400 meters in track (at Lincoln). I probably can bench-press 100 pounds more than when I got here. My arm has gotten a lot stronger. I don't think size is a big factor anymore. If you can play the game, you can play the game.'
His knack for evading the rush and picking up a few yards on the run doesn't hurt, although the most important thing in Davis' run-and-shoot offense is the 'shoot' - moving the ball downfield through the air.
The Vikings were a disappointing 3-8 in their first season with Glanville and Davis. Several factors were involved, just one of them being some struggles at scoring in the red zone. Kavanaugh's dual threat might help in that area. 'I can make some plays with my feet,' he says.
Because of his athletic ability, Kavanaugh probably could play a couple of other positions if quarterback doesn't pan out. He says the coaches have talked to him about that possibility.
'Yeah, a few times, but I feel like I could play quarterback at this level,' he says. 'But if they want to move me to receiver or whatever, so be it. I'm here to play football for Portland State.'
Howland has top spot
The Vikings' No. 1 quarterback is junior Tygue Howland, a 6-3, 220-pound junior. He has little playing experience - because of injuries the last two seasons, he is just 13 of 28 passing for 128 yards and no TDs in his PSU career. He won't be able to take contact this spring, either, but he's still probably ahead of Hubel, with 6-0, 200-pound junior Jimmy Collins and Kavanaugh in line.
'Tygue has an unbelievable arm,' Kavanaugh says. 'He throws balls on a dime, even on one foot.'
The competition this spring could be critical to Kavanaugh's future on the QB depth chart.
'I think four quarterbacks have a legitimate chance of starting next year,' he says. 'And I can't express how excited I am for spring. I've never been this excited, not even for my senior year of high school.
'I'm still just a freshman, so I've got to earn my time, just work hard and do what I can. I want to have fun, work hard and see what happens.'
The Vikings are thrilled to return 5-10, 240-pound fullback Bobby McClintock, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2007 opener at McNeese State. He won't be cleared for contact until fall, but his strength is becoming legendary. 'He's been benching sets of five at 410 pounds,' offensive coordinator Mouse Davis says. 'Grabbing his arm is like grabbing a table leg. It's a hunk.'
• The Viks are so young, they list only nine offensive players who have started a game (53 total starts) and just 10 defensive players with at least one start (55 total).
• Sophomore Jake Fetzer from Beaverton has moved from safety to outside linebacker, where he began spring No. 2 behind sophomore Ryan Pederson from Southridge.
'Fetzer got too big for safety,' coach Jerry Glanville says. 'He's 225 and still growing.'
• Pederson started eight games last season. Junior Andy Schantz and KJ McRae also were full-time starting linebackers. 'Mentally, those three are light years ahead of where they were a year ago,' Glanville says.
The other linebacker spot is up for grabs, although sophomore Rory Richards from Sprague has the inside track.
• Projected starting free safety Jordan Brown, a junior from Tigard, will miss spring drills while he rehabs from torn knee ligaments. Backup Al Hills, a redshirt freshman, also is on crutches. 'He had the same knee surgery as Greg Oden,' Glanville says.