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Hempel Takes Control of Offense

Junior Conner Hempel will start the Harvard football team's first game of the season against San Diego over senior Michael Pruneau.
Junior Conner Hempel will start the Harvard football team's first game of the season against San Diego over senior Michael Pruneau.
By Samantha Lin, Crimson Staff Writer

Coming into the 2012 season, then-starting quarterback Colton Chapple had seven collegiate starts under his belt. One year, over 2,500 passing yards, and 24 record-breaking touchdowns later, junior quarterback Conner Hempel looks to take the helm and attempt to continue Chapple’s legacy.

But Hempel has an additional hurdle to pass this Saturday when Harvard travels to San Diego to take on the Toreros: he has never started a game for the Crimson.

With senior quarterback Michael Pruneau out with a torn ACL for the entire 2012 campaign, Hempel became Chapple’s backup last season. The Kentucky native appeared in three contests and displayed some of his own dual-threat offensive skills, which Chapple was well known for, against Columbia, passing for 67 yards and rushing for another 28.

Hempel headlined Harvard’s spring intrasquad scrimmage, taking the number-one reps and finishing 13-22 with 113 yards to lead the quarterbacks with Pruneau sidelined.

The junior vied with Pruneau in a hotly contested competition for the starting spot with neither holding a clear edge throughout preseason practice. In what Hempel described as a “friendly battle,” both signal-callers appeared about even, with Hempel holding the advantage in snaps and Pruneau being one year older. But coach Tim Murphy pointed to Hempel’s advantage in experience under center as the final deciding factor.

“I feel like we could be successful with both kids, but Conner’s just more experienced through no fault of Mike’s—it’s just that Mike has missed so much,” Murphy said. “During that time, Conner was getting the number two reps… and then Conner’s gotten most of the number one reps throughout preseason. I think the sheer volume of reps compared to Mike has helped him to win the battle, and I think he’s going to be a very good quarterback.”

Saturday will be Hempel’s first real test under center as Harvard takes on San Diego in a hostile road environment, but having roomed with Chapple in his senior spring semester and spending the past three years mastering the Crimson playbook, Hempel feels ready to take the reins from his mentor.

“It feels great,” Hempel said. “I’m tremendously honored, coming after Colton Chapple and all of the great quarterbacks behind him, it’s just a great honor. I look forward to getting after game one in my first start.”

—Staff writer Samantha Lin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @linsamnity.

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