Quarterback battle headlines CMU spring game Saturday afternoon

John Evans, Publisher
Chippewa Country
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It's the question many Central Michigan football fans would like to know the answer to.

Who will be the starting quarterback this fall?

With the departure of Cooper Rush this past off-season, the Chippewas are left with a gaping hole at quarterback. But, fortunately for CMU, they are not scarce in potential replacements.


OPTION 1: Tony Poljan

Poljan, a redshirt freshman, was a highly touted recruit out of Lansing Catholic two years ago. He had multiple Big Ten offers, but many schools wanted him to convert to tight end. When he signed on with the Chippewas, it was pretty clear he would be following in the footsteps of Rush, who also attended Lansing Catholic High School.

Poljan brings everything you want in a Division I quarterback. He has size, athletic ability, a big arm and has now had a full year to learn the system and get his feet wet with the team. And when I say he has size, I don't mean he's just big. Bigger than most, he stands at 6-feet, 7-inches and when you see him run, it's intimidating.

"He's come a long way and he's a young man with a ton of upside," said CMU head coach John Bonamego. "He comes from a great pedigree. He hasn't disappointed one bit but he still has a long way to go. He has grasped the offense very well."

Poljan comes from a very athletic family, and it shows within him. His father was teammates with Bonamego on the CMU football team and his mother was an All-American softball player at Indiana.

He has taken a lot of first team reps this spring, and fans will get their real first look at him tomorrow afternoon where he will be expected to be running the offense a lot throughout the day. While the new offensive system isn't built around Poljan, Bonamego said they knew when they got him they could definitely build around him in other ways.

"One thing that makes a good coach is to build your system around the talent you have. We don't want to limit ourselves in any facet," Bonamego said. "The great thing about our new system is that it's adaptable no matter who the signal caller is."


OPTION 2: Shane Morris

Morris, a grad transfer from the University of Michigan, is not a CMU Chippewa yet. He is still enrolled at Michigan and will be graduating in a few weeks. Until that time, he has no relationship with the Chippewas, but it has been announced he is expected to join the team later this summer.

Obviously, Morris is missing valuable time with the team this spring as it transitions to a new scheme, but what he does have on his side is experience. By the time Morris gets to Mount Pleasant, he will already have four years of college football experience under his belt at the highest level in the Big Ten.

The left-handed slinger has a huge arm, and has showed off some speed in his career even seeing some reps at wide receiver while dressed as a Wolverine. Morris won't have to look too far up to match Poljan either as he stands 6-feet, 4-inches.

We won't know what he brings to the table until August, but it is expected he will battle for the starting position assuming everything remains strong with his transfer to Central Michigan.


OPTION 3: Tommy Lazarro / Austin Hergott

Bonamego said that this has been one of the better battles in spring camp so far.

Lazarro, a junior who spent last season as the backup quarterback, is very fast and quick for a quarterback. Hergott, who will be a true freshman after greyshirting last season, is more of a pro-style quarterback with strong accuracy.

Both have a full year of experience with the program and will be battling all year long for a backup role. As of now, both have been splitting second-team reps, and Bonamego said it's been great to see them go back and forth.

Expect one of them to be named the third string quarterback this fall, unless Morris' transfer falls through, which would bring them up for an immediate backup role.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Watch out for the running back group.

You won't find a stable of horses in the entire conference like the Chippewas will roll out this season. Junior Romello Ross is back from his ACL injury, sophomore Jonathan Ward is one more year experienced and senior Devon Spalding is healthy and ready to lead.

"We are going to be deep at running back," Bonamego said. "Ward has really opened some eyes and it's been great to see him continue to grow as a player. Berkley Edwards is another guy that is really shifty and showing great strength this spring."

Edwards, a mystery to most, is the younger brother of former NFL wideout Braylon Edwards. Berkley is a senior transfer who had to sit out last season, and will be competing for playing time this year in what will be his only season with the team.

Wide receivers Damon Terry and Brandon Childress are a pair of redshirt sophomores that Chippewa fans should get to know. Terry has had a very strong spring, and Childress has continued to progress as a big time playmaker. It is expected they will both see plenty of playing time this fall.

One other player to look out for is tight end Logan Hessbrook. A local product, Hessbrook was a three-time state champion at Ithaca High School, just 20 minutes south of Mount Pleasant.

While Tyler Conklin will see the bulk of reps at the tight end position, Hessbrook has made a name for himself this spring making plays and putting on some muscle (6'3", 225). A redshirt sophomore, Hessbrook will compete for backup reps with junior Jon Carson with Conklin leading a strong group of tight ends.

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