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Big Sky Conference filled with FBS transfer quarterbacks looking to earn starting jobs

UPDATED: Wed., July 1, 2020

The NCAA transfer portal has been a boon for Big Sky Conference programs in the market for a quarterback.

Eight of the conference’s 13 teams have a Football Bowl Subdivision dropdown transfer who will compete for the starting job this fall.

Eastern Washington is set this fall with All-Big Sky talent Eric Barriere, a dual threat who was fifth in Walter Payton Award voting last season – but he’s one of the conference’s rare returners.

There’s been a lot of quarterback movement this offseason.

Gone are Montana’s Dalton Sneed and UC Davis’ Jake Maier, All-Big Sky picks who are on Canadian Football League rosters.

Northern Arizona star Case Cookus signed an undrafted rookie free-agent contract with the New York Giants in the spring, and Kevin Thomson – the Big Sky Offensive Most Valuable Player at Sacramento State last season – is now a graduate transfer at Washington.

Southern Utah quarterback Chris Helbig has since graduate transferred to Eastern Michigan, and Weber State quarterback Jake Constantine transferred to Towson.

Northern Colorado’s Jacob Knipp and Idaho’s Mason Petrino exhausted their eligibility, leaving Barriere, Montana State’s Tucker Rovig, Portland State’s Davis Alexander, Cal Poly’s Jalen Hamler and Idaho State’s Matt Struck as the only returners in the conference with at least some experience.

But some of those returning starters could get unseated this fall from a big-school newcomer.

Here’s a look at nine former FBS quarterbacks hoping to earn starting jobs in the Big Sky this season.

Mike Beaudry, Idaho

With the graduation of Petrino and the recent announcement of part-time starter Colton Richardson taking a break from football in 2020, the door has widened for graduate transfer Beaudry.

Beaudry, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound sixth-year senior, was named the starter at Connecticut for the 2019 opener but was ultimately hampered by injuries.

He completed 53 of 83 passes for 503 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown for the Huskies last season.

Prior to UConn, Beaudry led West Florida to the 2017 NCAA Division II national title game. He passed for 3,215 yards and 29 touchdowns that season.

Tyler Vander Waal, Idaho State

Idaho State started three quarterbacks in its 3-9 campaign, and Struck was benched late in the year for true freshman Sagan Gronauer.

The Bengals brought in Wyoming transfer Vander Waal in December. He started 12 games in his three years with the Cowboys, completing 169 of 341 passes for 1,822 yards, six touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Vander Waal (6-4, 220) entered the transfer portal before the Cowboys’ win over Georgia State in the Arizona Bowl.

Matt McKay, Montana State

Rovig completed 172 of 279 passes for 1,969 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions for a physical, run-heavy Bobcats team that advanced to the FCS semifinals last season.

He’s going to have to earn his starting job again with the addition of McKay, who started the first five games for North Carolina State in 2019 before losing the job.

McKay (6-3, 175), a former four-star recruit, completed 57% of his passes last season for 910 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. The dual-threat quarterback also rushed for four touchdowns for the 4-8 Wolfpack.

Cam Humphrey and Kirk Rygol, Montana

When Sneed missed 2 1/2 games with an injury last season, backup Humphrey – a Boise State transfer in 2018 – did an efficient job. He completed 61% of his passes in 2019 for 761 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions and went 2-0 as a starter.

Humphrey will have competition this fall with the recent addition of Rygol, a transfer from South Florida.

Rygol completed 12 of 24 passes for 170 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a backup role at USF last season and rushed for 29 yards on nine carries.

Randall Johnson, Weber State

Weber State, a run-heavy team that was boosted by its defense and special teams, had a game manager at quarterback in the now-departed Constantine, who helped the Wildcats reach the FCS semifinals.

His backup, Royal City, Washington, product Kaden Jenks, has four starts in his career and plenty of other appearances, but the Wildcats recently added a true dual-threat quarterback in Middle Tennessee State transfer Johnson.

Johnson redshirted at MSTU in 2019, a year after he was named one of the best junior college quarterbacks in the country at Reedley College.

Johnson (6-5, 230) threw for 2,832 yards, 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2018 and rushed for 797 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was the Golden West Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

Zach Hymas, Southern Utah

Hymas redshirted at Utah last season and is yet to take a college snap. He was a redshirt due to NCAA transfer rules after leaving Weber State.

Hymas will look to fill in for the departed Helbling and will be competing with four quarterbacks, including Tyler Skidmore, who has completed 100 of 159 career passes for 1,010 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions.

Hunter Raquet, Cal Poly

As a redshirt freshman in a run-heavy triple-option offense, Hamler completed 63 of 108 passes for 1,167 yards for 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He also rushed for 522 yards and nine touchdowns.

In new head coach Beau Baldwin’s contrasting air-it-out system, Hamler will have to throw it a lot more.

If Hamler can’t make the adjustment, 6-4, 220-pound Raquet may step in.

Raquet passed for more than 5,000 career yards and 52 touchdowns in his two seasons at Monterey Peninsula College.

He played his freshman year at MPC in 2017, redshirted at Fresno State in 2018, and returned to MPC in 2019.

Keondre Wudtee, Northern Arizona

Trying to replace Cookus, who led the nation in passing last season (4,114 yards), is Wudtee (6-4, 220), a dual threat who came to Flagstaff, Arizona, in early 2019 from Oklahoma State.

He appeared in four games at Oklahoma State, rushing for 110 yards on 15 carries and completed 3 of 8 passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.

Wudtee, a former three-star recruit, battled injury last season as he backed up Cookus, propelling freshman Heath Beemiller to No. 2 on the depth chart.

Wudtee and Beemiller will likely battle it out for the No. 1 job this fall.

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