Of the two returning quarterbacks at Haskell Indian Nations University, Tyler Sessions owns the glossiest stats.
Yet Sessions will be the No. 2 QB when the Fightin' Indians begin preseason football drills on Monday morning.
Sessions, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound sophomore from Fennville, Mich., took the starting QB job away from Victor Ramos last season and sparkled by completing 54 percent of his passes while throwing eight touchdown passes and only four interceptions.
Then Sessions suffered a shoulder injury late in the season and Ramos, a 5-10, 210-pound soph from Phoenix, returned to lead the Indians to a 21-14 overtime victory over Waldorf in the season finale.
And when Sessions had to miss spring drills for personal reasons, Ramos remained No. 1 despite throwing 14 interceptions during his rookie year. Now Sessions is back and seventh-year head coach Eric Brock expects a dogfight during the preseason.
"I'd call it a toss-up right now," Brock said.
Either Sessions or Ramos will be HINU's signal-caller, but the targets - other than Sivei Martin - remain to be determined. Martin, a junior from Monument Valley, Utah, is the only experienced receiver in camp. The 6-0, 200-pound junior caught 28 passes and scored three touchdowns last season.
"That's why we concentrated our recruiting efforts in that area," Brock said.
He didn't have to go far for one hopeful. Baldwin High product Kyle Smith, grandson of former Haskell head coach Bennie Smith, is in camp.
"We think he can be a spark for us," Brock said of Smith, a first-team All-Frontier League selection who was also a member of the Bulldogs' state championship 1,600-meter relay team last spring.
Haskell looks solid at running back with sophomore Quentin Haynes, last season's leading rusher with 610 yards, returning along with Ryan Thorne, who gained 107 yards in limited duty.
Not back, however, is Bubba Wills, who rushed for 1,160 yards as a freshman two years ago, but gained only 327 yards during an injury-plagued 2007 season. Wills did not return to school.
Brock, who also serves as the Indians' defensive coordinator, has eight returnees from a unit that struggled last fall in surrendering an average of 37.5 points a game.
One of the three losses was free safety Antonio Hayes who, as a fifth-year senior, made 135 tackles to rank second in the NAIA. Hayes' likely replacement is red-shirt freshman Greg Nilges, a Santa Fe Trail High product.
Among the veterans returning on defense are cornerbacks Morris Denetdeel and Micah Swimmer and linebacker Mario Torres, all seniors.
Since becoming a full-fledged member of the NAIA in 2000, Haskell has never produced a winning season. Twice under Brock the Tribe has fashioned a 4-7 record.
"I get a lot of calls from schools that want to schedule us," Brock said, "but until we reach a level of winning consistently I want us to be in a competitive situation."
Thus Brock has scheduled accordingly. Of the 11 schools HINU will face this fall, only two posted winning records last season - Missouri Southern and Peru State, both with 6-5 marks.
Haskell will open on the road Aug. 30 against South Dakota Tech. The home opener will be Sept. 13 against Bacone.
Haskell dropped its first six games last year on the way to a 2-8 record.
¢ HINU hires new OC: Rance Holt, a former KU graduate aide with junior college coaching experience, has been hired as offensive coordinator. Holt is married to KU women's tennis coach Amy Hall-Holt.
¢ Indians add new opponent: New on the Indians' schedule this fall is MacMurray College of Jacksonville, Ill., an NCAA Div. III school coming off an 0-10 season.