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Trenton Hatfield back at quarterback to answer Illinois State need
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Trenton Hatfield back at quarterback to answer Illinois State need

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NORMAL — Familiar with switching positions, Illinois State sophomore Trenton Hatfield was willing to do it again.

When Redbird coach Brock Spack took Hatfield up on his offer, ISU had a new backup quarterback.

“I knew they were in a predicament, wanting to redshirt Jack (Baltz) and him already playing four games,” Hatfield said Tuesday. “We obviously needed a backup. I went to Spack and said I was willing. They liked the idea and gave me a shot. And here we are.”

Hatfield passed for 5,503 yards in an all-state prep career at Muncie (Ind.) Central High School and was recruited to ISU as a quarterback. He spent the 2017 season as a redshirt quarterback before shifting to tailback in 2018.

With a better chance for playing time looming on defense, Hatfield moved to safety before the current season. He has been ISU’s second string strong safety while seeing extensive special teams action and has nine tackles.

A need arose at quarterback with starter Brady Davis out with a season-ending knee injury. After Baltz and Jefferson both played in a regular-season ending loss at Youngstown State, the ISU coaching staff decided to start Jefferson in last week’s first-round playoff game at Southeast Missouri and hold Baltz out.

But a key question remained. Who would play if Jefferson had to leave the game?

“He (Hatfield) texted me on Sunday (after the Youngstown game). I thought 'this is going to be a pretty good idea,' ” said Spack, whose team plays at Central Arkansas in a second-round playoff game Saturday. “I was hesitant in some respects. I watched him the first day and was kind of impressed.”

Hatfield had not been under center since 2018 spring practice. But once a quarterback, always a quarterback.

“When (offensive coordinator Kurt) Beathard first got here, I went through a whole spring with him. I learned the whole offense,” Hatfield said. “There are a few wrinkles here and there, but it’s pretty much the same.”

Reconditioning his arm to throw is an ongoing process for Hatfield.

“It was a little tight in the beginning. But it’s loosened up since then,” said the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder. “I don’t have as much arm strength as I used to because I’ve been (weight) lifting a different way. But it’s manageable. I’m happy with it.”

Spack approves of how Hatfield has taken command of the second team offense.

“I’m impressed the way he’s handled the huddle,” Spack said. “Our offense isn’t easy. He’s able to verbalize the calls and talk to his offense.”

Hatfield was rushed into action in the first half in last week's win over Southeast Missouri when Jefferson’s helmet came off on a run, forcing him to leave the game for one play.

“I strapped my helmet up, got the play from (offensive assistant Jacob) Donohoe, went in and executed,” Hatfield said. “I’ve played my whole life at quarterback. The position is kind of second nature to me. I feel confident in my abilities.”

The Redbirds and Hatfield both benefit from the fact Jefferson and Hatfield are similarly talented, dual-threat quarterbacks.

“The game plan would be similar with him in the game,” Spack said of Hatfield. “He’s a pretty good athlete. He can run the ball and he’s tough. He’s become tougher. Playing defense will do that to you.”

Five on newcomer team: Redbirds Jeff Proctor, Kacper Rutkiewicz, Adam Solomon, Aaron Mends and Clayton Isbell were named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference All-Newcomer team on Tuesday.

A junior college transfer, Proctor rushed for 476 yards before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Rutkiewicz, a true freshman, is ISU’s leading receiver with 22 catches for 418 yards.

Solomon has played both guard and tackle on the ISU offensive line after transferring from Illinois.

A graduate transfer like Solomon, Mends came to the Redbirds from Iowa and has 43 tackles and two sacks as a linebacker. Isbell, a redshirt freshman, has served as ISU’s nickel defensive back. He has 22 tackles and an interception.

Contact Randy Reinhardt at (309) 820-3403. Follow him on Twitter: pg_reinhardt

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