From now until the start of Idaho State's spring football practices March 26, we will preview the top storylines to follow as the Bengals prepare for the 2019 season.
1. Who will replace Tanner Gueller at quarterback?
As starters changed, players and coaches shuffled in and out of the program and ISU underwent a reputational makeover, the Bengals always knew who'd take snaps from behind center.
For the first time since 2015, ISU's starting quarterback is unknown heading into spring practices.
ISU lost its old reliable, as Tanner Gueller's career as a Bengal came to an end this past season. Gueller started parts of four seasons, was the full-time starter the last three years and exits the program as its all-time leader in touchdown passes (74).
Gueller's continuity as the team's leader and offensive backbone provided much-needed stability amid an ever-changing program. But it also kept ISU's undeveloped quarterbacks undeveloped.
On the depth chart sans Gueller are QBs with plenty of experience in ISU's system, but most of that experience has been gained in practice and scrimmage settings. Gunnar Amos enters spring practices as ISU's only quarterback who has played in a Division I game. That, and his status as a soon-to-be fifth-year senior, give him an early leg up on the competition.
Amos has thrown 35 passes in his college career, including two years (one redshirt) at Idaho and two years at Idaho State. He has completed 15 of those passes (42.9 percent) for 171 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
The Coeur d'Alene High School graduate has had more success running the ball, logging 24 carries for 114 yards (4.75 yards per rush) and one rushing touchdown.
Amos is smaller and quicker than Gueller, but doesn't have the same arm strength or in-game seasoning Gueller acquired through suiting up 42 times. Amos was ISU's second-string signal-caller the last two seasons, and was touted by Bengals coach Rob Phenicie as someone who could supplant Gueller as the starter before the 2017 season. A fair assessment of Amos' talent, or a motivational tactic, we may never know. Gueller never relinquished his stronghold of the starting job, as Amos' lone appearances came in garbage time of one-sided games.
Would ISU alter its offense to better suit Amos' abilities as a run-first quarterback? It's plausible. ISU's offensive line mauled opponents last season, helping running backs James Madison and Ty Flanagan combine to rush for 1,818 yards and 19 touchdowns. Four of those starting five O-linemen are back. So is Flanagan, and there's untapped talent behind him.
Additionally, slot receiver Michael Dean was a high school running back and started his career at ISU in the backfield. A read-option or speed-option-based offense wouldn't be a stretch given the Bengals already operate a run-pass option attack.
But changing ISU's offense also may not be necessary if Amos is given the reins. ISU ran the ball on 58 percent of plays a season ago and still found time to spray the ball to Dean and No. 1 wideout Mitch Gueller for a combined 2,122 yards and 19 TDs. Tanner Gueller's ability to extend plays with his legs kept defenses honest, and ISU's strong running game set up open pass plays. Amos could utilize similar benefits.
It is unclear if ISU will add any more quarterbacks before next season starts. ISU signed one freshman quarterback on February's National Signing Day — Nevada native Sagan Gronauer. The team pursued former Montana QB Gresch Jensen after the 2018 season, but he ultimately joined Texas State.
With next season's roster slated to be loaded with seniors, 2019 brings the Bengals an opportunity to achieve rare success. Solidifying the quarterback spot is step No. 1.