ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — On Grand Valley State head coach Matt Mitchell’s roster, the starting quarterback position is vacant. The player looking to take the job isn’t a new face at all.
Redshirt senior Cole Kotopka has done his time watching from the sidelines. While he did see the field at times a season ago, he is now on the doorstep of being the Lakers’ starting man under center.
Mitchell couldn’t be more excited.
“Bart (Williams) had a great career here, but Cole is just different,” Mitchell said. “Not good or bad different, there’s just different things he will be able to do. So it’s kind of fun when you have that dynamic to roll out to practice to see what you can do with your team.”
After being redshirted in 2013, Williams was the starter for the next four seasons. He accumulated 12,410 passing yards with 126 touchdowns and 41 interceptions. He completed 57.8% (807 for 1,396) of his passes. His career passing yards and touchdowns are the most in school history.
Kotopka was watching Williams put up these numbers. While it was hard at times, Kotopka is not nervous to take over in 2019.
“The experience helps, obviously. I played some reps last year and obviously practice means a lot,” Kotopka said. “Coming out here every day, just trying to get better with timing and spacing, stuff like that.”
The Plainfield, Illinois, native has played in 18 games for GVSU. He has completed 48 of 90 passes (53 percent) for 658 yards over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, adding four scores and two interceptions.
While Kotopka doesn’t have as much in-game experience as Williams, his supporting cast on offense returns many impact players from a season ago. His offensive line returns one senior in Calvin Graves and three juniors, Chaz Westfall, Ethan Culberson and Tom Cwiok. At wide receiver, senior Austin Paritee and junior Brandon Wadley return after each playing in 11 games, totaling 1,508 receiving yards and Paritree added nine touchdowns. To help balance with the run game, senior leading rusher Chawntez Moss returns fresh off a season when he scored 11 touchdowns while adding 1,028 yards.
“Football is a team game. It’s the greatest team game out there,” Kotopka said. “Having guys around me with an insane amount of talent obviously helps.”
GVSU plays in the GLIAC, which saw four teams within three games of each other for the top spot. Ferris State (15-1, 8-0 GLIAC) won the league with GVSU (10-2, 7-1) finishing a game behind them.
The Lakers did make the playoffs a season ago, but in Allendale, the end goal is to win national championships. According to Kotopka, the way last season finished out led to a new team goal.
“Everyone out here wants to finish better, so I think that was the one main goal,” Kotopka said. “The mantra going into the offseason was we’ve got to finish: sprints, routes, just running off the field. We’ve just got to finish everything we do. It’s definitely something we are focusing on.”
Wherever GVSU ends up by late November, this time Kotopka doesn’t plan to be the backup quarterback. He wants the ball in his hands with a chance to make a difference on the field.