DETROIT – The Mid-American football conference is littered with players from northeast Indiana and several of them are poised to make names for themselves this season.
At the head of the pack is Zach Terrell, the sophomore quarterback at Western Michigan, who is from Homestead and currently atop the depth chart for the Broncos.
But he’s neither the only quarterback nor the only familiar name coaches raved about Wednesday at MAC Media Day at Ford Field.
We’re such a young football team, but if we had to play today, Zach would start for us. But we don’t play today, said Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck, whose team went 1-11 last season, his first with the Broncos after spending a year as the wide receivers coach with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Terrell started six games last season, completing 53 percent of his passes for 1,602 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
He’s battling redshirt freshman Cameron Thomas and freshman Chance Stewart.
Ken Dorsey was a great friend of mine and we played together with the 49ers. Ken Dorsey didn’t have the arm strength everyone else had, Fleck said of the two-time Heisman Trophy finalist at Miami (Florida).
He anticipated everything so well and was so accurate that it made up for the lack of arm strength. Zach is the same way. Zach’s very, very smart and he can anticipate the holes and the defenses. That’s something really special about him, Fleck added.
Terrell has been nominated for the Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team; 182 players are in the mix for their commitment to enriching the lives of others through community work.
That’s a tremendous show of his leadership on and off the field, Fleck said.
Speaking of leadership, it’s one of the big things that Terrell has worked on since last season, when the Broncos were 1-7 in the conference, better only than winless Miami (Ohio).
He needed to add 5 mph to his fastball. He needed to get a little more zip on his ball, throw it a little farther, and I think he has, Fleck said. And the biggest thing Zach needed to do was express his leadership qualities to his football team. He has leadership qualities – he’s always had them – but being able to get them those out to the players was a struggle. He didn’t know how to relay it. But he’s hit that on the head this year. He’s a leader on our football team and he’s only a sophomore.
He’s not flashy. He’s not impressive looking. But he is who he is, and he’s a made winner, and I’m really proud of him.
Another quarterback from northeast Indiana that could see some playing time is sophomore James Knapke of Bishop Luers, who is the backup at Bowling Green behind Matt Johnson. Last season, Knapke completed 4 of 10 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown.
James has a major leadership role on the team because when you’re the backup quarterback, you’re one injury from being the starter. And you have to prepare every single day like you’re the starter, said Bowling Green coach Dino Babers, whose team was 10-4 last season and won the MAC’s West Division at 7-1.
I really think it’s the most difficult role on the football team. You don’t want the guy in front of you to get hurt, but you have to practice every day like you’re going to be that guy. The backup doesn’t even get the same amount of reps as the starting quarterback, yet we expect the same results. It’s a difficult situation and James handles it very well.
Ball State has several players from northeast Indiana – Luers graduates Nick Chapel (WR) and Kendrick Mullen (WR), as well as running back Jimmy Crumley of Carroll, punter/kicker Alex Egan of Leo, receiver Jordan Hogue of New Haven and quarterback David Morrison of Concordia – and the Cardinals continue to heavily recruit the area.
Miami has defensive lineman Zach Swarts of Homestead and receiver Jared Murphy of Columbia City. Eastern Michigan has linebacker D’Marcus Moon of North Side.