Sacramento Mountain Lions move forward with Colburn at the helm

Joe Fleming

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The Sacramento Mountain Lions have determined who will be their starting quarterback – and it is not Daunte Culpepper.

Culpepper spent 11 years as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He headlined the MoLos as one of their biggest stars from last season. He threw for 1,944 yards, 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Now Culpepper is trying to find a job in the NFL once again, but so far, no teams are biting.

Culpepper tried out with the San Francisco 49ers on Aug. 15 and, even though all indications were he did well, he was not given a contract. For now he’s holding out from returning to the MoLos for a chance another NFL team will rescue the 34-year-old.

Head coach Dennis Green said there is still the possibility of Culpepper’s return to the team.

“Culpepper’s not out of the picture yet,” Green said. “He’s still waiting on the NFL, so we’ll be patient.”

The Mountain Lions are pushing forward without their former quarterback and so far, they have a good idea who will lead the team this fall.

The team entered training camp with three quarterbacks: Ryan Colburn, Arkelon Hall and Adam Tafalis. As of Friday, Hall was cut from the team and Tafalis decided to retire, leaving Colburn as top QB. Tafalis told coaches he owns a gym in Southern California and needs to return to his obligation.

The team added quarterbacks Tommy Grady, Jordan Palmer and Donald “DJ” Shockley to the roster to add some support at the position.

Grady, who played college football at the University of Oklahoma, was primarily a backup. He played professionally for  the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League.

Jordan Palmer, who is the brother of Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback Carson Palmer, was released by Cincinnati. Some football analysts believe the Bengals brought in Jordan to entice Carson to stay with team, but it wasn’t enough to persuade Jordan’s older brother to rejoin the squad.

Former University of Georgia quarterback Shockley was originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons. After reaching only as high as third string on the Falcons until eventually being designated to the practice squad, Shockley signed with Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. The Nighthawks released him on Friday and by Monday he was with the  MoLos.

So far, Colburn takes most of the snaps behind center during practice. Coaches have been impressed with his ability and expect him to start the season against the Las Vegas Locomotives on Sept. 17.

Green made it clear that the team cannot wait for Culpepper to make up his mind. Moving forward with the quarterbacks now on the team is what he is focused on – and he’s impressed so far.

“Right now Colburn is our starter. He was quite a quarterback at Fresno State and did very well,” Green said. “(Colburn) is very accurate, strong, and I think he’s learned the offense very well.”

A Sacramento native who attended Central Valley Christian High School, Colburn was a starter for two seasons with  Fresno State from 2009-10. As a senior he passed for 2,817 yards, 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Colburn said the game is faster at this level, but the comparison between Fresno State and the Mountain Lions’ style of offense has helped him.

“They play with a lot of tempo at Fresno State and they do here too. It’s a high paced, high execution standard here,” Colburn said. “There’s a lot of similarities, but it’s definitely faster. I’m liking it.”

The team’s offensive coordinator Mike Kruczek said he has done “exceptionally well.”

Kruczek said everything he has seen so far from Colburn indicates there would be no drop off in offense from last season to now. He also said if Culpepper returns there will be a spot waiting for him.

“There’s no more consummate competitor better than Daunte Culpepper,” Kruczek said. “He really elevates the performance level of everybody else on the field.”

As for now, the team will move forward with Colburn, but Culpepper is still looming on the horizon.

Joe Fleming can be reached at sports@statehornet.com.

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