Dealing with running quarterbacks is nothing new. Tanner Troutman, in a year as a starting safety for Lycoming, has seen plenty of them.
But Tyler Berntsen is different. The four-year player for Wilkes is a fullback in disguise. You know, if a fullback attached a howitzer to his right shoulder.
At 6-foot-4, 238 pounds, Berntsen is taller than all five of his offensive linemen, and is either heavier than, or within 15 pounds of those offensive linemen. He's got the build of a quarterback which you'd expect from a prototypical drop-back passer in a pro style offense.
But it's not the offense he's in. Veteran head coach Frank Sheptock has had Berntsen in control of his run-based spread offense since he showed up on campus in Edwardsville out of West Morris High School in New Jersey. He's always been sharing the position, though, mostly with Alex George, who has moved to tight end, over the course of the last three years.
Berntsen is the triggerman now, though. He was the only Colonels quarterback to throw a pass in last week's win over Morrisville State. And because he's different, a bulldozer with a facemask if you will, he poses quite the threat for Troutman and the rest of the Lycoming defense in Saturday's game at David Person Field in the Warriors' home opener.
"He's a big dude," Troutman said. "He runs the ball hard and he has speed and he has good feet. Definitely one of the things we have to do is keep him contained. He's probably the best runner we'll see as a quarterback all year."
It's high praise considering what the Warriors just had to deal with in Brockport quarterback Ty Stoldt. It's even higher praise considering the Warriors still have to deal with Delaware Valley quarterback Aaron Wilmer.
But it's the truth. It's not just that Berntsen is a big kid. It's how he runs the ball. He's not afraid to put a shoulder into a defender since he weighs more than all but two Lycoming defensive starters. And that's what makes him particularly tough to defend.
"Any time you have a big quarterback who's able to run the ball, it creates problems for you defensively," Lycoming head coach Mike Clark said. "Most people who are pro style offenses, the quarterback hands the ball off and you're basically playing 11 against 10. They have a good group of backs, but their willingness to run (Berntsen) creates a new problem."
Berntsen surpassed the 1,000-yard mark rushing for his career in last week's win over Morrisville State. He ran for 65 yards at a team-best 5.4 yards per carry in the 41-26 win.
He's not a one-dimensional threat, though. He also needs just 165 more passing yards to reach 2,500 for his career. It's the same kind of dual threat Berntsen carried in his senior year of high school when he threw for more than 1,000 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the ground.
It's a dual threat Troutman and the rest of the Lycoming defense is well aware of. As much as they have to pay attention to the skilled ball-handling of Berntsen on Wilkes' read option looks, Troutman said it's important not to get caught looking in the backfield and getting beat deep on a pass.
"There's a lot of discipline in that," Troutman said. "The linemen are firing out and giving a fall read so you come up on a run read and they fire a pass over your head. As safeties, and the secondary and linebackers can't be too aggressive on the run reads because they'll throw it right over you head and catch you on a big play."