Josh Donnelly is to start at quarterback for the University of Regina Rams in Saturday’s regular-season opener against the University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg.
Although Donnelly is the incumbent starter, the competition was intense during training camp after the arrival of Sawyer Buettner — a former PFC star with the Regina Thunder who was subsequently the No. 1 pivot with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees before transferring to the U of R.
The Rams’ quarterbacking depth chart also includes Bryden O’Flaherty, who saw some Canada West game action for the Rams in 2019, and former Balfour Bears pivot Noah Pelletier.
“It’s the tightest quarterback battle I’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Rams head coach Mark McConkey, who joined the team’s staff in 2015 as the offensive co-ordinator, quarterbacks coach and academic coach.
“Usually there’s one guy head and shoulders above everyone else, but all four of these guys competed at a high level and they all graded out really, really well.
“I’m fortunate to be in the position that I am, with having these four guys, but ultimately we’re going to play the best guy and the guy who gives us the best chance to win is Donnelly, so that’s who we’re going with.”
Donnelly started seven games for the Rams in 2019, when he threw for 1,964 yards and 12 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.
Buettner played in seven games with Ottawa in 2018, throwing for 1,470 yards and 14 TDs while being intercepted five times. He suffered a concussion in the Gee-Gees’ 2019 opener and did not return to action.
It was announced early last year that Buettner was transferring to the U of R, but the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
“Josh is the one who said, ‘Bring him in. He’ll make us better,’ ” McConkey said. “And he has made Josh better. He has made Bryden better and made Pelletier better. They’re all making each other better. The better players you have around you competing in your position, the better you’re going to be.
“So I think you’ll see a more mature, developed Josh than we did in 2019. I know he was young in that year but as the year went on, he really kept developing and making strides.
“I’m excited to see how he does this year, because he didn’t take the year off last year. He kept developing, kept learning the playbook and kept learning defences and really devoting his life and his time toward running this offence and being the guy, so he has done a great job so far.”
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