Football

Fresh arms: 1st-year quarterbacks Kimble, Wilson compete to become Syracuse’s future quarterback

The two quarterbacks have been in constant competition throughout training camp.

Standing side by side in a line of six quarterbacks at the beginning of practice Monday, they each took three-step drops and snap throws to stationary receivers standing 10 yards away.

Practicing handoffs, they stood shoulder to shoulder once more before feeding the ball to running backs, one after the other.

But when practice shifted and the offense huddled around quarterbacks coach Tim Lester, they stood outside the group. They aren’t Terrel Hunt and Drew Allen, the two quarterbacks competing for the starting job.

They’re Mitch Kimble and Austin Wilson.

Kimble and Wilson are SU’s two freshman signal-callers who will likely redshirt this season. As much of the program’s attention centers around Hunt and Allen – one of whom will start against Penn State on Aug. 31– the freshmen are priming themselves to compete to become the starter down the road, and quickly becoming companions in the process.

“With having to get two guys a lot of reps, they haven’t gotten a lot of reps,” Lester said. “We have two guys with great arms who are learning the game, and it’s going to be fun to watch them learn. And they’re fighting to try and learn as fast as they can.”

Few things set Kimble and Wilson apart. Each stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and picked up the position around the start of high school. In drills, the two possess equally quick feet and arms to match their big frames.

Then there’s the look in each of their eyes, which exudes impressionability.

“It’s been a lot of mental reps for us, learning the playbook and stuff,” Kimble said, “and it’s fun being around all the quarterbacks. It’s a really competitive environment and it’s contagious.”

Wilson signed first, already knowing it was a crowded position. Even after Zach Allen de-committed for Texas Christian University and Kimble chose the Orange instead of North Carolina State and Northern Illinois, Wilson never wavered.

“It was first Zach and then Mitch, and I always felt the same,” Wilson said. “It’s good to have someone to learn with and work out with and to push yourself against.”

Since training camp commenced more than two weeks ago, Kimble and Wilson have been making each other better.

In practice Monday, the two matched up in every drill. One drill had all six quarterbacks run sideline to sideline while throwing to their partners.

Kimble quickly took three steps and pitched it right into Wilson’s chest. Then Wilson responded by moving his feet faster and pitching the ball harder toward the exact same spot. This continued until they were out-hustling the duos of Allen and Hunt and Charley Loeb and walk-on freshman Troy Green.

When they reached the other sideline, a quick verbal exchange and a simultaneous helmet tap sent them whizzing into the next drill.

“We’re excited about these freshmen, they are doing a phenomenal job,” Lester said. “Those two young kids can really throw the ball.”

Teammates rag on Kimble and Wilson, calling them “inseparable” and “always together.” The two don’t deny their friendship, but as evidenced by their collective work ethic, they haven’t lost sight of their personal goals.

“I wouldn’t say we are trying to one up each other,” Kimble said. “We just come out every day and try and one up everybody, both of us. We all want to be starters, so we all have to work like we are.”

The competitiveness surrounding quarterback drills at camp is apparent, and Kimble and Wilson are storing notes for a later date.

Among Hunt, Allen and Loeb, veterans surround the freshmen. Hunt brings two years of experience in the program. Allen, the fifth-year senior, backed up NFL products Sam Bradford and Landry Jones at Oklahoma before transferring to SU this summer.

“These guys are teaching us a ton about perseverance,” Wilson said. “They are out here competing every day and everyone’s watching, and they just keep going.”

Should sophomore Hunt edge Allen for the starting spot, he will have a good chance to hold onto it for the next three years. That would leave Kimble and Wilson two seasons – assuming they redshirt – to best one another and achieve a lifelong dream.

Kimble and Wilson aren’t naive to what the future holds. They’ve embraced the cutthroat nature of this year’s camp and look forward to much of the same in the next four years.

Said Kimble, with a smile on his face: “Nothing about it makes me nervous. It’s why I came, and it’ll be fun.”

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