Kavanaugh has edge again in ‘pistol’ going into PSU fall practice

For the second year in a row, Portland State ended its spring football camp without a starting quarterback set in stone. Once again, though, former Lincoln High star Connor Kavanaugh has a leg up in being the signal-caller on the Park Blocks when the Vikings open Sept. 3 at Jeld-Wen Field against Southern Oregon. “Right now, coming out of spring, Connor is ahead,” PSU coach Nigel Burton says. “But it’s always going to be an open competition. It will always be that way here.” Kavanaugh will compete for the position against Jerry Glanville-era starter Drew Hubel and Justin Engstrom, both seniors, and redshirt freshman Josh Milhollin from South Medford High. “Each one of them has something they can add,” Burton says. “Connor is still that field general, and we know that Drew can sling it. The (other) guys, as we got them more reps toward the end of spring, did a nice job.” Kavanaugh, a 6-0, 185-pound fifth-year senior, started eight games last season. He completed 93 of 154 passes for 1,109 yards, six TDs and three interceptions. He also rushed 85 times for 506 yards. His season ended when he broke his left throwing hand against Eastern Washington. Kavanaugh has recovered from surgery. “The hand is 100 percent,” he says. “I don’t even think about it anymore.” Though he is a good passer, Kavanaugh’s athletic ability is his true strength in the Vikings’ pistol offense. “Connor is a little gunslinger, side-arm (thrower),” says offensive coordinator and QB coach Bruce Barnum. “He can do a double back flip and throw an out. And he runs the read well in our read zone.” Kavanaugh says having competition for the position will only make him better. “It’s definitely motivation,” he says. “Once you feel content, that’s when things start falling apart. It’s not like I’m ever going to relax. I expect to be pushed by those guys through the summer and into the fall.” Though Barnum says that Milhollin is probably the fastest of the quarterbacks, the 6-4, 195 pounder still needs to work on accuracy and learning the Viking system. Burton says Milhollin is the future of the team, though. “Milhollin is going to be special one day,” the second-year coach says. “Whether it’s next year or the year after that, that guy, you can see it. When he tucks and runs, it’s scary.” That leaves Hubel as the quarterback most likely to immediately challenge Kavanaugh for the starter’s role. The 6-5, 205-pound Hubel, from Corvallis High, was a true star in Mouse Davis’ run-and-shoot offense. As a sophomore, he completed 226 of 393 passes for 2,912 yards, 18 TDs and 15 interceptions. The pistol offense the Vikings have adopted under Burton might not be the ideal showcase for Hubel’s strengths, but Hubel is confident he can perform in the system. “We still have a passing game,” Hubel says. “I can showcase my talents that way. I’m not going to be scrambling around like Kav. For me, it’s just a matter of playing within my strengths and molding the team to them.” For Hubel to do that, though, he must continue rehabilitating his right, throwing shoulder. Hubel missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing surgery on the shoulder, and while he practiced this spring, he was not able to play in the PSU spring game. “I’ve got to get myself back up to college-level competition,” Hubel says. “I don’t want to be out here wasting people’s time throwing at a poor level. It’s just a matter of getting back to that point where I was before the surgery.” Barnum admits that Hubel is a bit of “an unknown.” Should he come into fall camp healthy, though, Hubel would bring a lot to the table. “Drew’s strength is his arm and his accuracy,” Barnum says. “He’s a prototypical quarterback. He drops back and he can throw the 15-yard out. He knows how to read coverages.” While it will be months before Portland State decides who will line up behind center when the season begins, Barnum says he is happy with the quarterback situation. “I like our depth, and I like our personnel,” he says. “Right now, knock on wood, it’s a comfortable position.”

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