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Olson: Starting QB spot still up for grabs

After suiting up and going after one another for almost — two hours, the Southern Oregon football team is no closer to answering — the quarterback question.

"It just muddied the waters a little bit more," said Raider — head coach Jeff Olson. "I think all four had their moments on Saturday."

In a defense-controlled shortened game, the White team — pulled away for a 12-3 win over the Black squad in an intrasquad scrimmage — that capped two weeks of spring training for the Raiders, who finished — 5-4 last season and ranked No. 23 in the final NAIA poll.

"We got the chance to be in a game situation and go down — and distance," said senior linebacker David Zauhr. "We got to go full — speed all the way to the ground. We finally got to hit each other after — going through the whole spring. Everything we learned, we got to use and — I think everyone did a very good job. It was very competitive."

That competition peaked at the quarterback position.

Black's senior Brandon Griffith led the quartet in passing — yards with 70 (on 3-for-10 passing with two interceptions), but it was — the White team's redshirt freshman Boomer Marshall from South Medford — High who led two scoring drives and completed 10 of 16 passes for 67 yards. — Redshirt freshman Dan Downey from Clackamas was 5-for-8 for 48 yards for — the Black team and junior Dustin Despotakis completed 5 of 11 passes for — 36 yards and one interception on the White side.

"All four of them did some very nice things and all four — of them will be here all summer so I think its going to be an ongoing — competition," Olson said. "So far it's been a friendly competition."

The job probably won't be decided until after fall camp — begins on August 14, but so far, Olson likes what he sees.

"One of the things I was looking for was how the team — rallied around them during a live competition and I think in all four — situations, players played well behind them," Olson said. "It tells me — they did well in the huddle and handled themselves, so that tells me guys — want to play with them."

While the field general question remains, the spring game — did remind the Raiders of their strengths.

"One thing I was very pleased with, our defensive line — players, I think, played really well overall," Olson said. "Offensively, — I don't think we dropped a ball at wide receiver."

Time to step up

With three seniors graduated into NFL training camps, — Southern understands there are some big shoes to fill on the squad.

"I think some of the good things were a lot of the younger — players came out and showed themselves," Zauhr said. "Spring ball is more — of a chance to show yourself. It's a time to shine and its a time to learn."

The Raiders continue to search for some of those stars. —

For example, the past eight years, the Raiders have been — able to look to an experienced running back. Going into the 2004 season, — the spot is still unassigned.

Junior running back T.J. Smith, a transfer from Shasta — JC, played for the White team and ended up with a game-high 22 rushing — yards on eight carries. Redshirt freshman Jacobe Krizman was the go-to — guy for the Black, tallying nine carries for 14 yards. Senior Bill Jolin — was also in the mix, as was junior Curt Stout.

"The couple of areas we're going to have to solidify is — quarterback and running back," Olson said. "I think it's something that's — going to have to happen and it will happen, but right now it's something — that's very competitive."

The other glaring vacancy during the spring game was that — of two-time All-American Steve Baker, now a kicker for the Oakland Raiders. — His brother, senior Ryan Baker, attempted to takeover the role on Saturday, — but stumbled. Baker missed two extra points and a field goal while connecting — on a 35-yard field goal.

"[Baker] has kicked pretty well during the spring," Olson — said. "I don't see it as an area of concern but we certainly need to be — better than we were Saturday and we will be."

Regardless of the gaps and uncertainties that remain after — the scrimmage, the squad will use the spring and summer, and a lot of — intrasquad challenging, to try and put together a quality team come September. — The team returns 10 starters from last season's squad, although it graduated — four first-team All-Americans.

"I think one of the things we need to work on is we need — to come together a little bit more," Zauhr said. "I truly think that's — possible. We have a very young team and out of those guys, we have some — very good players."

More to come

Although most of the starting positions will go to guys — who played on the field Saturday afternoon, there's always the chance — a newcomer will shake things up in August.

"A lot of the positions on defense are either a returning — starter or a junior or sophomore who's had experience," Zauhr said. "If — a transfer is brought in, he's going to create more competition and that's — a good thing."

Nine players performed at Raider Stadium for the first — time during the spring game, including Smith, defensive lineman Peter — Tuialuuluu and Nick Pilon, and defense back Madison Ceasar, and it's nothing's — set in stone at this point.

"We've got a couple more coming in, " Olson said. " — in large, I think the majority of our roster, the guys we played with — yesterday will be the ones we play with in the fall. But we're definitely — not done yet. There's going to be some other additions that will help — us this fall."

Still, the Raiders feel pretty confident where they're — at after the spring contest.

"We've got a lot of great players on the team, a lot of — talent," said senior defensive back Toby Walker. "Now we just need to — bring it all together and things should go well for us."

The team returns to the weight room and conditioning for — the next three months, in preparation for fall camp in mid-August.

"I think one of the things that we have to solidify is — who will separate themselves and assert themselves in the areas that the — competition is very thick still," Olson said. "The competition is just — going to get more intense. The spring is one thing but now as we get going — for fall, now it's for real. "

Southern opens the season at home against Si Tanka Huron — of South Dakota on Sept. 4.