Until the day Portland State interim coach Bruce Barnum announced the two finalists in the Viking’ Great Quarterback Quest of 2015, Josh Kraght had played few other positions in his career other than signal caller.
But when he and Paris Penn were eliminated from consideration for the PSU starting job, a competition eventually won by JUCO transfer Alex Kuresa, Kraght was shifted to wide receiver.
Instead of bemoaning his fate or cursing the football gods, Kraght embraced the new challenge in front of him.
“I had played quarterback my whole life and of course I wanted to be the guy and start every single game at quarterback,” Kraght told Viking Tales. “But Coach Barnum and the coaching staff decided to go with Alex (Kuresa) and Kieran (McDonagh). Either one of those guys would have been productive.
“Anybody would have been bummed a little bit. But I figured if I can get on the field and help us win games, that’s really all I’m here for. I just want to win regardless of how we do it. I know quarterback isn’t totally out of the future, but I’m definitely excited.”
Actually, Kraght practiced briefly at wide receiver last season the week of the Idaho State game. However, McDonagh struggled in PSU’s 31-13 home loss to the Bengals, throwing four interceptions. Kraght, who started the season as the third string signal caller behind McDonagh and Paris Penn, was thrown into the fray at quarterback despite not taking a single practice rep there during the week.
Seven days later, Kraght made his first career start at Montana State, one of the toughest and most intimidating environments in the Big Sky Conference.
“For the Idaho State game, I was playing a little receiver and special teams in practice, trying to get onto the field one way or another,” Kraght said. “Then came the Idaho State game, I got thrown in there at the end (at quarterback). But it wasn’t too bad since I played there my whole life, so I knew what was going on. It was fun, a good experience.”
Kraght completed 19-of-38 passes for 218 yards and ran for 96 yards in the close 29-22 loss to the Bobcats in Bozeman. Most importantly, the Vikings didn’t commit a turnover, a problem that plagued them throughout the 2014 season.
Seeing he started Portland State’s final three games at quarterback and performed adequately for the most part, Kraght rightfully thought he had a legitimate chance to win the permanent starting job when spring practice began in April.
But Kuresa’s arrival on campus for the spring term changed the equation at quarterback, and the JUCO transfer from Utah eventually won the job for Saturday’s opener at Washington State.
“Anybody in my position would have (thought I had a shot to win the job),” Kraght said. “I definitely thought I improved in the offseason and had a good spring. It was a tight race the whole way. I did what I could. I put my time in on the field. Then they decided to go with another guy. Now I’m finding my role at receiver.”
Accepting his fate, Kraght enthusiastically jumped into the wide receiver battle.
“It’s going well. I’m working in slowly,” Kraght said., “I have a little history playing receiver in high school. I love running around and catching the ball. If I ever do move back to quarterback, it will definitely help me with the receiver perspective on some things. Right now, I love it. I’m getting into receiver shape.”
Coincidentally, Portland State wide receiver coach Evan Mozzochi was a quarterback in college, first for Idaho State and later at Western Oregon. As a result, both Kraght and his position staff can compare notes as the former methodically maneuvers his way up the depth chart.
“As a quarterback, you always see the field a little differently,” Kraght said. “So, there are definitely some similarities.”
Kraght’s biggest challenge as a receiver? Learning the nuances such as blocking and reading coverages from a receiver’s perspective , which is vastly different than the quarterback’s standpoint.
“There is so much more to the receiver position than just catching passes,” Kraght said. “There are a lot of little things you can do at receiver to take you to the next level and become an even better player. That will probably be the biggest challenge. But I do think I have a good knack for it.”
In many ways, Kraght is superbly demonstrating the versatile athletic skills he first displayed growing up in the Evergreen State. He was an outstanding all-around athlete at Lyden High School in Lyden, WA, lettering in football, basketball and baseball.
Besides being named Washington’s Class 2A Player of the Year in football in 2012, Kraght was also a three-year starter on the basketball team and an all-conference performer in baseball.
“All I remember is throwing and catching the football, shooting the basketball and doing all that stuff,” said Kraght, who was married in July. “Even when I wasn’t playing quarterback, I loved to go run routes or play defense and go guard somebody. For me, it’s just being on the field and loving the game of football.”
What is Kraght’s biggest obstacle? Getting people to pronounce his last name correctly. It’s pronounced ‘Kraft,’ but he has heard plenty of variations over the years.
“I’ve never had somebody say it the correct way right off the bat,” Kraght said. “The one I hear a lot, and I don’t know why, is ‘Knight.’ I’ve heard it several times. I understand ‘Kraut’ or something else.”
At this point, Kraght probably doesn’t mind how people pronounce his last name as long as he is catching passes and scoring touchdowns for the Vikings.
Reach Scott Hood at ScottHood63@gmail.com
— Mike Lund (@mikelund65) September 2, 2015