Over the last months, much has been made of the quarterback situation that faced the Miners heading into the 2015 season. Many questions were asked, and they were apparently answered by Mack Leftwich as Sean Kugler tapped him to be the starter against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
"Mack Leftwich will the starting quarterback." Kugler said on Monday. "He won that quarterback competition fair and square. Garrett right now is suffering from a high ankle sprain, but it had no bearing on the decision."
There was a heated competition throughout the spring and summer, with multiple quarterbacks making an impression. Leftwich, Garret Simpson, Ryan Metz, and even freshman Kavika Johnson all battled it out for the starting job.
Simpson, the strong armed 6'7 junior showed some flashes, and as Kugler put it Johnson began to "carve out his niche" in the offense, but in the end it was the sophomore Leftwich that proved to be most suited to lead the Miner offense.
He didn't have the greatest of showings in the scrimmage to end fall camp, going just 3-16 for 81 yards. He did however have a 61 yard touchdown toss to Hayden Plinke, and was the victim of a number of dropped balls that brought his numbers down a bit.
"This was monitored all the way since the end of last season." Kugler said of the quarterback competition. "I will say this, I've never been apart of a quarterback competition that statistically was this close. As far as completion percentage, Mack was only one percent better than Garrett. Their touchdowns were equal, their dropped passes were equal, the thing that stood out to me were interceptions, which tiled heavily in favor of Mack. That was an unbelievable battle."
Leftwich is a sophomore with a bit of game experience under his belt. In his freshman year in 2013, he filled in for the injured Jameill Showers in the last four games of the season. That year he went 44-75 for 458 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was redshirted in the 2014 season as Showers returned for his senior campaign.
The sophomore will look to lead an offense that will rely heavily on its run game, anchored by star Aaron Jones. That, coupled with perhaps a few wrinkles like the wildcat tossed in, should keep things somewhat balanced, and set Leftwich up for a solid campaign.
UTEP will square off against Arkansas in the season opener out in Fayetville this weekend. Leftwich and the Miners will have the work cut out for them in that one, as they take on the 18th ranked Razorbacks out in SEC Country.
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