Three’s company: battle for Panthers starting quarterback persists

Jonston MacIntyre was named the starter for the Panthers’ first game on Sept. 6, but fellow quarterbacks Reed Vettel and Max Nall are also vying for the no.1 position. Photo by Gabriella Anderson, staff photographer

A good football program is like a workplace, said Bob Owens, head coach of Chapman football. Players try to outdo each other one play at a time, battle for starting positions and, in return, breed healthy competition throughout the program.

“This year, there’s more of a competition,” said Jonston MacIntyre, quarterback and junior communication studies major. “It’s still ongoing, but it’s good and allows you to bring the best out of each other.”

Despite being four weeks into the season, the Panthers have a three-way race for the starting quarterback position. In their most recent game against Pacific University of Oregon on Sept. 6, MacIntyre took the first snap. Behind him on the depth chart are sophomores Reed Vettel and Max Nall.

MacIntyre played in three games last season, throwing for 171 yards on 19 attempts. It was a small sample size, but Owens said MacIntyre’s seniority as an upperclassman played a large role in his winning the starting position.

“Jonston has been in the program for two years and he had quite a bit of playing experience from a year ago,” Owens said. “It’s the other guys that are in a challenging position and Jonston has done a good job – he understands the system, he has good command of the position, he throws the ball well.”

Despite his position, MacIntyre has faced competition from both Vettel and Nall during training camp; Owens said each possess individual characteristics that set them apart.

Vettel has a stronger arm, giving him an advantage over others in that category, the coach explained. It helps his ability to drive the ball down the field, giving the offense big-play potential at any moment in the game. In the game against Pacific University, Vettel threw for 26 more yards than MacIntyre.

“I’m definitely a pocket passer,” Vettel said. “I’m confident in my arm strength – my running not so much – but I can make up for that with my arm.”

Nall is a dual-threat quarterback who has the ability to run the ball regularly and hit passes effectively, Owens said. It’s that speed and quickness on the ground that the coach believes sets him apart.

MacIntyre, the current starter, said he has both strong physical and mental tools. While MacIntyre faces a drawback in his height – standing at 5 feet 11 inches tall while Vettel and Nall are both above 6 feet tall – Owens said he’s creative in throwing the ball and understands the team’s offense well. Owens said that while Vettel and Nall have strengths in specific areas, MacIntyre displays more of an all-around skillset.

“I’m more of a passer, but I bring the threat to run and scramble,” MacIntyre said.

All three are faced with filling the shoes of now-graduated former starter Ian Fieber. During the 2018 football season, Fieber led the Panthers to a 5-4 record while throwing for 2,545 yards with 28 touchdown passes.

“Ian Fieber and Ricky Bautista from the last two seasons were really good quarterbacks. We talk a lot about them in the film room and we try to learn from them,” Vettel said. “We can live up to expectations, but it’s going to take a lot of work at practice and in the film room.”

Trying to live up to Fieber’s legacy, the three-player race for the starting job has created some competition in the program. However, both the coach and the quarterbacks feel the battle benefits the team.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Vettel said. “I’ve never been in a competition like this before. The two other quarterbacks are really good and they’re definitely making it a tough battle.”

While MacIntyre may have taken the team’s first snap on Sept. 6 and Vettel was tabbed later in the game, the Panthers’ depth chart at quarterback is still up in the air. When asked if there would be a rotation of quarterbacks throughout the game, Owens said, “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get there.”