On Saturday afternoon, John Kinder found himself in a familiar spot. He was standing on the sidelines watching a football game.
That’s how Kinder, the 2009 New York State Class A player of the year as a quarterback at Lawrence, spent most of the past four seasons at Syracuse, where he got into just three games and didn’t take a snap at quarterback except on the practice field. But this time, Kinder was watching Stony Brook’s spring football game at LaValle Stadium, knowing he has a chance to start for the Seawolves in the fall as a graduate student.
It was the first time Kinder got to see the Seawolves in person after announcing in January his decision to transfer after he completes his undergraduate degree. “I’ve been watching some film, but this is my first time seeing the quarterback’s footwork and seeing how they operate in person,” said Kinder, who has one year of eligibility remaining and will join Stony Brook’s summer conditioning program after Memorial Day to prepare for training camp on Aug. 1.
"I saw a lot of good things out there today, especially on the offensive side of the ball. There were some big catches made; Stacey broke that big run, I was very impressed with what the offense did today.”
Kinder saw Stony Brook’s offense prevail over the defense by a 17-13 score, and he watched as redshirt junior college transfer Conor Bednarski scrambled behind an offensive line missing three injured starters to pass for 183 yards and one touchdown. Transfer running back Stacey Bedell broke the day’s biggest play, a 56-yard run.
Kinder didn’t get into a game in his first two years at Syracuse, played on special teams against Southern Cal and, ironically, Stony Brook in 2012 and saw a few plays at wide receiver against Wagner last season. But he got practice reps at quarterback and learned two offensive systems because of a coaching change at Syracuse.
"It was pretty rough, especially my freshman year,” Kinder admitted. “But I did learn a lot standing on the sideline. You look at the game in a new way. You become more of a detail-oriented person, looking at the little things about the game.”
He acknowledged it will take some time to rid himself of the rust once he steps on the practice field at Stony Brook. “When you’re working with a new group of guys, there’s always going to be some rust in terms of getting the mesh down together and the timing,” Kinder said. “I’m expecting that.”
He was so desperate for a chance to play at Syracuse last fall that Kinder volunteered to move to wide receiver when he realized he was too far down the depth chart at quarterback. When that move didn’t work out, Kinder took the opportunity as a graduate student to change schools and play right away in his remaining year of eligibility.
“Playing quarterback is my passion,” Kinder said. “It’s been what I’ve been playing since I was a little kid with the Inwood Buccaneers. I was just ecstatic and honored that Stony Brook would offer me the opportunity to come here and try to play my last year at the position I really love to do.”
Kinder will be involved in a competition with Bednarski and redshirt freshman Carlos Hernandez for the starting job. Although the running game is the staple of coach Chuck Priore’s offense, the Seawolves learned in their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association a year ago the importance of having a quarterback who can sustain the offense when the running game isn’t clicking.
Regarded as a better runner than a passer when he came out of high school, Kinder views himself as a dual threat. “I think I throw the ball just as well as I run,” Kinder said. “I feel like playing outside the pocket and throwing on the run is an area I’m pretty strong in, and Conor did a great job with that stuff today.
“I will be able to do some things with my legs. But I don’t want to live on that. I want to hand off the ball to these great running backs here and just do whatever is asked of me.”
Priore agreed with Kinder’s assessment of his run-pass ability. “Absolutely, it’s his strength,” Priore said. “On third-and-10, one of two things will happen. We’ll either throw the pass up the field for a completion, or he’ll see a seam and be able to rush for 12 yards and get that first down.”
Sounds like Kinder’s spectating days are over.