Bagnell leaves Mary as one of the most prolific throwers in Marauder history with more than 9,000 passing yards and a program-best 75 touchdowns. The two-time Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference honoree completed more than 60 percent of his passes on a school-record 759 completions and threw only 32 interceptions during his four-year career. As a senior in 2013, he helped lead the team to its first winning season since 2007.
Although Bagnell leaves behind a storied career, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Roberson believes he is ready for the starting quarterback role after sitting behind and learning from the record-breaking signal-caller.
Roberson, 21, has previous live game experience. As a redshirt freshman in 2012, he appeared in six games and started three while tossing 852 yards and five TDs. In his first two starts, he threw for more than 300 yards in each outing, but the Marauders fell both times.
As a redshirt sophomore this past season, Roberson filled in for Bagnell against No. 5 Minnesota Duluth. He accounted for two TDs (one passing, one rushing), and 189 passing yards, but the team couldn’t pull off the upset and lost 32-14.
Last season, Mary went 6-5 overall and finished fifth in conference play under former coach Myron Schulz.
Roberson, in four starts, posts an 0-4 record, but has gained valuable experience. He has played in nine games, throwing for 1,074 yards and five TDs with 12 interceptions.
(Editor’s note—Roberson, who hasn’t been home since early June, and won’t be back until Christmas, spoke with Union Democrat sports reporter Vongni Yang by phone on Monday about the Marauders upcoming 2014 football season.)
UD:How are the summer workouts going in North Dakota?
ZR: Right now, we’re lifting three days a week and running four days a week. Everything is going really well so far.
UD: What’s it like to replace a quarterback like Craig Bagnell?
ZR: It was nice to sit behind Craig for two or three years. I really learned a lot sitting behind him. He did a good job mentoring me. I’m ready. I put in a lot of time, and it’s really going to pay off.
UD: Were there any specific parts of the game that you learned from Bagnell?
ZR: The biggest thing was learning more about the game of football. How to read coverages better, and really think ahead of the defense and not be guessing so much. The biggest thing that I learned from him was actually to watch film and study different teams and watch their coverages that they are throwing at us.
UD: How important was Bagnell to your development as a quarterback?
ZR: Craig’s gonna be a coach in our conference this year. Just having him the past two or three years, it’s like having another coach. Talking everything through with him has helped me so much. I wouldn’t change anything in the past because that’s helped me get to the position of where I am today.
UD: How are you adjusting to new head coach Josh Kotelnicki and his staff?
ZR: Once coach Kotelnicki came in, he really changed the whole character of the team and how the team went about things. He’s a really disciplined guy, and I think that will work out the best for us. We had the best offseason since I’ve been here.
UD: Will this be your third offensive coordinator in as many seasons?
ZR: Yup, it will be. Looking from the outside, you think it’s a lot harder than it really is. One thing that is really good from one coordinator to another coordinator is that they try to keep things the same. Some of the terminology might be different, but they try to keep the offense as close as it was.
UD: Is it difficult to adjust to another new offense?
ZR: Not really. The way you look at it is that football is football. Whether you’re throwing a comeback route or handing the ball off, it’s about getting reps and getting familiar with the offense.
UD: What type of offense is Kotelnicki and his staff running?
ZR: We’re still going to be running pretty much a spread offense with some pistol. We maybe huddling up a little bit more.
UD: Has playing under three different coordinators stunted your growth as a player?
ZR: Honestly, it’s almost made me become a better player because I can never really get comfortable. You’re always having to learn new things. You always have to be on your feet. That’s been a plus and it’s made me grow a little bit faster.
UD: You started four games as an underclassman, do you think that’s going to help you as you head into your junior season?
ZR: Even from my redshirt freshman year to last year, just the experience that I had helped. Playing Duluth last year is going to benefit me even more this season going into my first year as a full-time starter.
UD: Did you have to compete for the starting job this spring?
ZR: Pretty much going into the spring, coach Kotelnicki told me I was going to be the guy. Finally, being named the starter is kind of like having the monkey off my back. I been working hard the past three years. Just being able to be in that role is a pretty awesome feeling.
UD: How much did playing under Summerville head coach Ben Watson help prepare you for the college game?
ZR: Growing up in the offense that I did in high school — it wasn’t as complicated — but his passing schemes are kind of what we are learning at this level. That’s the biggest thing that helped me with the transition from high school to college. Being able to read defenses in that offense has really helped.
UD: Is it an advantage to have live reps against other teams under your belt?
ZR: I think the biggest thing is you’re able to see how much faster the game is. Sitting on the sidelines, you don’t understand how fast everyone is until you really get out there. Getting any sort of playing time is extremely crucial playing at this level.
UD: Now that you’re the starting quarterback, what are you working on to get better this summer?
ZR: The biggest thing is now I’m able to become a leader of the team and not really have to prove myself. I can help make my team better and not just me. Guys can look at me as being a starter and not a backup now.
UD: What are your strengths as a quarterback?
ZR: My biggest strength is that I’m able to stay poised in pretty much any situation on the field. I’m a very enthusiastic guy.
UD: What are the team goals?
ZR: We’re right at the point as a team where we’re just about to get over that hump and not be a mid-level team. We want to be able to compete with the Mankatos, Duluths and other teams at the top of the conference. We want to have meaningful games at the end of the season, either making it to the playoffs or making it to a bowl game.
UD: Do you have any individual goals?
ZR: My only individual goal that I have is to put my team in the best position to win games, whether that is handing off the ball 40 times or throwing it 40 times. I just want to be able to get some wins.
UD: Do you have anything else you want to add?
ZR: I would like to say thanks to everyone back home for all the support they still have for me even though I’m out in North Dakota. It means a lot to have people from my hometown still rallying behind me.