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Wardrope has No. 1 job, health this spring

This spring Bemidji State quarterback Cory Wardrope can take one big sigh of relief. Last April during spring drills the Anchorage, Alaska native was in the midst of a position battle as well as a health battle. But after taking over the No. 1 sp...

This spring Bemidji State quarterback Cory Wardrope can take one big sigh of relief.

Last April during spring drills the Anchorage, Alaska native was in the midst of a position battle as well as a health battle.

But after taking over the No. 1 spot in Week 7 and leading the team to five straight wins and a berth into the program's first-ever postseason game and it's first conference championship since 1959, Wardrope is hands-down the No. 1 quarterback. More importantly, the redshirt freshman is 100 percent healthy.

"It has been a 180-degree turnaround for me," Wardrope said.

Wardrope entered spring ball last year on the heels of a redshirt season competing with semester transfer Josh Williams.

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The competition lasted all spring and well into fall practice. BSU's coaching staff announced Williams as the Game 1 starter the week of the opener.

While Wardrope said he didn't mind the competition, he said this spring is much more enjoyable knowing the job is his to lose.

"I think it's more fun," said the 6-foot-1, 180 pounder. "I don't think it's a relief necessarily; I try to keep working hard and always try to keep challenging myself."

"It is a lot more fun though not to worry about whom the coaches think looks better each day."

Wardrope not only worried about trying to earn the starting QB job last spring and fall but also worried about his health.

After several bouts of illness, Wardrope was eventually diagnosed with a deviated septum which was causing his sinuses not to drain correctly. The improper drainage led to a constant build-up of sinus fluid that became stagnant and eventually infected. With his immune system constantly fighting off sinus infections his body was unable to effectively fight off other pathogens.

Just days following the Beavers' 35-27 season-ending loss to Pittsburg State Dec. 2 in the Mineral Water Bowl, Wardrope had sinus surgery.

Since then he is 100 percent with no lingering effects but still takes precautions.

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"My mom keeps harping on me about vitamins," Wardrope said with a laugh. "So I'm taking my vitamins."

Wardrope needed more than vitamins last year as he battled illnesses all fall. But he ended with a 63 percent completion rate for 1,187 yards with 11 touchdown passes and just three interceptions in nine games - six of them starts. He added 185 yards on the ground with two rushing TDs.

Williams, who is no longer with the team, started the first six games of the season during which he completed 51 percent of his passes for 787 yards and eight TDs with 10 INTs. He started under center in close losses to Minnesota-Duluth and University of Mary.

"I don't necessarily regret our decision," BSU quarterbacks coach Eric Medberry said of starting the season with Williams under center. "Williams won some games for us and at times played really well. As the season progressed Josh wasn't improving as a quarterback and Cory took some strides during the season and obviously made the most of the opportunity when we made the change."

Wardrope relieved Williams versus Northern State and helped rally the team to a 25-22 victory and nearly sparked another come-from-behind win over Mary midway through the season.

That experience along with perfect health and knowing he's the No. 1 QB, Wardrope's game has elevated.

"He's just night and day difference out here," said Medberry. "The biggest thing is he has real game experience and that clearly translates out here as opposed to last spring."

Wardrope and Medberry said the offense as a whole is also way ahead of where they were at the same time last year.

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"The experience level is incredibly high right now because everyone knows what's going on and we're getting a lot done because of it," Wardrope said.

The departure of Williams leaves Anoka's Derek Edholm as the team's only other QB but Medberry isn't the least bit concerned.

"Edholm has improved by leaps and bounds too so Cory's going to have to continue to get better because of who's behind him," said the second-year coach. "I'm really pleased with what both quarterbacks have done this spring."

A more confident Wardrope could mean a return of BSU's highly potent offenses of the past.

The Beavers put up 3,845 yards of total offense last fall. Comparatively, BSU's offense has put up more than 4,000 yards of total offense in six of the last eight seasons - a record 5,181 yards in 2001.

"I think you'll see our offense get back to where we were," Medberry said. "Cory's a lot more confident and more comfortable making his reads and that will translate onto the field."

While Wardrope may be more comfortable this spring that doesn't mean he's satisfied.

"The work ethic is still the same," Wardrope said.

Notes

E The Green and White spring game is 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium.

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