Wyatt Hutchinson was the man in waiting in case Tanner Trosin-related trouble ever arrived for Southern Oregon University last season.
Now, a year later, Hutchinson is the one who try to fill Trosin’s All-American-sized shoes.
The Raiders’ quarterback battle that stretched all the way back to spring camp has come to an end, with Hutchinson, a redshirt sophomore, beating out junior college transfers Chase Knutz and Craig Contreras and redshirt freshman Trent Banner to win the Raiders’ starting job under center.
The decision, announced to the team during practice on Saturday, will see Hutchinson make his first-ever collegiate start this Saturday afternoon when No. 4-nationally ranked SOU opens its season on the road at Eastern Oregon.
“I just tried to remain very humble, felt very blessed for the opportunity,” Hutchison said in regard to what it was like upon first learning he had won the job. “We have a lot of work to do, and I have a lot of work to do. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we try to preach the same thing all the time and stay consistent as a team.”
The simple question for SOU offensive coordinator Ken Fasnacht: Why Wyatt?
“It really boiled down to command of the offense more than anything else,” Fasnacht said. “It wasn’t a separation in skillset between him or any of the other three guys, but he had a little bit more command and focus and the athleticism he brought to the table. His skillset is the most like Tanner’s, and not that we rely on that style of quarterback, but because we we’ve ran the last couple of years he just grasped it with that skillset.”
According to Fasnacht, another component that gave Hutchison the edge during the quarterback battle was “throwing completions and throwing touchdowns.”
For a fast-paced, high-scoring offense like Southern Oregon has had under Fasnacht’s watch the last seven years, having those kinds of performances in practice will get you noticed.
“When we got to 11-on-11 situations, he was the one completing the football, making the plays and he understood the system,” Fasnacht said. “It started to really clarify over the last 10 days and he started to take some strides to separate from everybody else. He had a level of consistency that we were looking for and that’s what separated the battle ultimately.”
Hutchinson, whose listed height is 6-foot just as Trosin’s was, started his collegiate career at Western Oregon, redshirting with the NCAA Division II-level Wolves in 2016 before transferring to Southern Oregon.
He played sparingly as the Raiders’ No. 2 quarterback a season ago, which was pretty understandable based on how absolutely on fire Trosin was from the get-go.
In total, Hutchinson appeared in four games, attempting all of four passes. His one completion last season? It went for a touchdown in Southern Oregon’s 38-17 win against Montana State-Northern on Nov. 4.
The experience in terms of in-game reps might not be there, but Hutchinson feels like the time he’s spent in Fasnacht’s offense will help his transition into his starting role.
“It helped a lot, and I think, at the end of the day, that we’re all still relatively new to the offense so we’re still trying to grasp concepts that Austin Dodge and Tanner had,” Hutchinson said. “Each and every single day, if we get that 1 percent better — not just me, but all of the other quarterbacks — all of us are going to be 10 times better off with the command of the offense and the team as a whole.”
Fasnacht says the leash Hutchinson has will be a long one, adding “we didn’t name him the starter because we think he’s going to fail and not be successful.”
And nobody denies that replacing an All-American like Trosin, who threw for 4,516 yards and accounted for 38 total touchdowns (31 passing, 7 rushing), is going to be easy.
But Hutchinson knows full well the kind of talent he has around him that will help him both adjust to being the Raiders’ go-to guy under center and try to lead SOU in a season where another top-5 preseason ranking will accompany is there to be lived up to.
“We have a lot of weapons around the whole board on offense and defense,” Hutchinson said. “It takes a lot of pressure off of me being a first-year starter. I just try to rely on the offensive line, the running backs, the wide receivers as much as I can and get the ball in their hands to hopefully go make plays.”
Contact Danny Penza at 541-776-4483 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @penzatopaper.