Football

Who will be the Charlotte 49ers’ starting QB? Competition underway at spring drills

Charlotte offensive linemen Eugene German (75) and Casey Perry (70) hit the blocking sled as teammates watch during the 49ers’ first spring practice Saturday morning. Charlotte will practice three days a week until its annual Green-White Spring Game on April 23 at Richardson Stadium.
Charlotte offensive linemen Eugene German (75) and Casey Perry (70) hit the blocking sled as teammates watch during the 49ers’ first spring practice Saturday morning. Charlotte will practice three days a week until its annual Green-White Spring Game on April 23 at Richardson Stadium. Special to the Observer

Charlotte 49ers football coach Brad Lambert likes to see his players compete for playing time, no matter what position.

But Lambert will have a real competition on his hands at quarterback, with five players vying for the starting spot entering the 49ers’ spring practices.

“We want competition at every position, and quarterback’s no different,” Lambert said before Saturday’s opening practice. “We wanted to create competition at that position, and I think we’ve done that.

“I’m really excited about watching them this spring, and seeing who can emerge at that position and take the reins of this football team.”

Charlotte returns three quarterbacks from last season’s team, all of whom started during the 49ers’ 2-10 season: seniors Lee McNeill and Matt Johnson, and sophomore Brooks Barden.

They are joined in Charlotte’s spring drills by Concord native Hasaan Klugh, who sat out last season after transferring from N.C. A&T; winter signee Kevin Olsen, brother of Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olson; and graduate transfer Cody Keith, who played last season at East Carolina. In high school, Keith played as a sophomore at Myers Park and as a junior at South Mecklenburg.

Lambert said Johnson – who holds school records for career passing yards (5,293) and passing touchdowns (41) – is being converted to a hybrid back, primarily running out of “wildcat” formations.

But the remaining five – and a sixth will be added when 2016 signee Joe Thompson (Asburn, Va.) joins the team in the fall – will all be in the running for the starting job.

“Everybody knows we struggled at the quarterback position last year,” said Barden, who started five games last season and threw for 440 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. “We never got settled in, and never played and executed the way we wanted to.

“We knew during the spring that something had to happen. We had to bring in some older guys in and create competition. That was the best thing they could do.”

Even the 49ers’ newcomers know what that means, and what it means for the rest of the team.

“It’s big, knowing you have to bring your best every time you’re out there,” said Olsen, who transferred to Charlotte from Riverside (Calif.) City College. “If you don’t have a good quarterback competition, then your team’s probably shaky.

“As a quarterback, the competition begins there, and it kinda bleeds to the other positions. We’re competing every day, but as much as we’re competing, we’re still helping each other.”

Ogunjobi back from surgery

Senior nose tackle Larry Ogunjobi was back at practice for the first time since off-season surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.

But Ogunjobi was sporting a red jersey as one of five 49ers defensive players who were limited to what they could do during the 49ers’ spring practices.

“I didn’t want to be in this,” said Ogunjobi, holding up the red jersey. “But it’s all good. It’s just good to be out there, and good to get this last go-round.

“You can feel the energy in the locker room, and see the look in people’s eyes. Everybody’s on the same page as what we’re trying to do.”

Ogunjobi – one of Charlotte’s two All-Conference USA selections last season – was joined in limited action by linebackers Nick Cook and Karrington King, and defensive backs Markevis Davis and Terrance Winchester.

Practice schedule

The 49ers will practice three days a week – the normal schedule is on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings – until their annual Green-White Spring Game, 7 p.m. on April 23 at Richardson Stadium.

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