FOOTBALL: Quarterback competition highlights Spring Practice for Ball State

Page says he should have to win job back after disappointing freshman year

Kelly Page is just a year removed from winning Ball State University's starting quarterback job.

But after a disappointing freshman season that was cut five games short due to a broken thumb, Page has to win the job again.

This year, instead of competing with career backup Tanner Justice, Page's foil will be played by redshirt freshman Aaron Mershman. Both Page and Mershman are enjoying the situation.

"We've got a great quarterback in Mershman right here and we've got a good one coming in," Page said. "I love competition. It's going to be a lot of fun."

The competition kicked off last week with the start of spring practice, it but is expected to continue into training camp in August so incoming freshman Keith Wenning can get in the mix.

Page threw for 1,019 yards and seven touchdowns last year. He also was intercepted nine times. After going 0-7 as a starter, Page thinks he should have to win his old job back.

"College football is a game of competition," he said. "Shoot, I haven't won any games yet. I've got to go out there and earn everything I do."

After Page's injury last year, Mershman was Justice's backup but didn't see the field. He enrolled early at Ball State last year, which enabled him to participate in spring practice. Mershman says he is much further along in his development this year.

"I spent all last spring in a role where I wasn't ready to play for us," he said. "I'm trying to prove I'm in that place now."

The competition might not even be happening if Page had stayed healthy all of last year. Coach Stan Parrish said Page was making progress before the broken thumb.

"He was coming along," Parrish said. "He played a strong game against Toledo. He learned a lot of lessons along the way last year."

Page is wearing a black "don't touch" jersey in spring practice but said his thumb doesn't bother him at all.

"It doesn't inhibit anything I do," Page said. "I can grip the ball great. It just feels great."

The quarterbacks are working on very different things this spring. Mershman is focused on footwork, while Page's honey-do list is a little longer.

"He has to identify coverages better, he's got to get us in the end zone and he's got to make the throws when the guys are there and open," Parrish said. "His job is, when they're open, to get them the ball and make good decisions. This is a critical spring in his career."

Page knows his game needs lots of improvement.

"[Parrish] hasn't said one specific thing," Page said. "I need to improve on my whole game. I need to go out there and play with the swagger a Division I quarterback has to play with."


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