Editor’s Note: Today kicks off a series of eight profiles highlighting an individual at each position group for UNK football this season.
KEARNEY — University of Nebraska at Kearney football coach Josh Lynn described redshirt freshman quarterback TJ Davis as the “most improved” offensive player at the end of spring practices in April.
Davis was the Lopers’ top performing quarterback in the spring game. He showed his athleticism and improving skills in the passing game to complete 4-of-6 passes for 57 yards and one touchdown while rushing 14 times for 95 yards and one score.
“It did surprise me,” Lynn said of Davis’ spring performance. “However, we knew it was in him. He came along a lot faster than we thought he’d come along.”
Davis’ rapid development throughout his first year in the program prompted the Lopers to convert backup senior quarterback Cody Summers to receiver this offseason. It moved Davis up the QB depth chart to the backup spot behind senior starter Alex McGinnis.
Davis, who is 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, has refined his throwing mechanics and footwork over the last year to gain the coaching staff’s confidence. He’s an ideal fit for the Lopers’ pistol option offense, possessing dual-threat ability and presenting intriguing potential as the No. 2 quarterback due to his intangibles.
“I am trying to get better every day,” Davis said. “There’s not really any focus on being the backup. I’m just trying to work on my craft and help the team with whatever they need.”
In high school, Davis, a Colorado Springs, Colo. native, ran the same offense and thrived in the system. He passed for 1,520 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 688 yards and 13 TDs his senior year. He earned second-team All-State honors twice in his prep career.
His familiarity with the offensive system factored into his decision to select UNK over other offers, including Colorado State University-Pueblo, he said.
When Davis joined the Lopers as a freshman last season, he was one of five student-athletes in the quarterback room. In the offseason, Carson Walters transferred and the Lopers switched Summers to receiver.
The two changes, along with redshirt freshman Riley Harms not being at 100 percent after suffering a knee injury last season, made Davis the clear choice for the backup spot.
“He’s extremely fast, great athlete and all in all, a great quarterback,” Lynn said. “His throwing is starting to come around. I would have no problem running him into a football game if we needed to.”
Regardless of who’s lined up at quarterback, the Lopers know they have to be better in the passing game. They ranked second-to-last in the MIAA with 128.6 passing yards per game last season.
McGinnis will be the starter entering the season. He struggled with his consistency last year, completing 50 percent of his passes for 1,364 yards, six touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first full year as the starter.
Davis said he’s learned from McGinnis on how to conduct himself as a college quarterback on and off the field.
“McGinnis is older than me, so I just watch him and soak in as much as I can,” Davis said. “That way when it’s my time, I’m just going to be ready.”
n UNK Quarterbacks
RETURNERS — Alex McGinnis, R-Sr., Crete; TJ Davis, R-Fr., Colorado Springs, Colo.; Riley Harms, R-Fr., Fremont.
NEWCOMERS — Casen Cavalier, Fr., Canadian, Texas.