August 17, 2009

"Countdown To Kickoff": The Quarterbacks

Editor's Note: This is the first installment of an eight-part series produced by the FSU Athletics Communications Office looking at different position groups as the Bulldogs prepare for their 2009 season opener on Saturday, Aug. 29, against Tiffin at Top Taggart Field.

Big Rapids, Mich. - If there is any position where the Ferris State University football team should be further ahead of the curve than it was at this point a season ago, it would have to be the quarterback position.

In 2008, the Bulldogs entered fall camp with no sure starter and little experience overall at the signal caller spot heading into week one after four-year letterwinner C.J. Van Wieren was lost to graduation following the 2007 season. 

That certainly shouldn't be the case this fall.

Sophomore Tom Schneider (Jerome/Addison) eventually won the starting job with a strong preseason showing last campaign and went on to lead the Bulldogs in rushing with 519 yards while completing 74-of-162 passes for 884 yards in 2008.  The 6-3 Schneider started 10 of 11 contests a year ago and led the team with six rushing TD's as a redshirt freshman.

"Tom took a step forward during the spring in the passing game and has more command of the offense," said FSU Offensive Coordinator Matt McCarthy

While Schneider had a strong rookie season following a redshirt year in the Bulldog program, he eventually split time running the offense with junior college transfer Kyle Parrish (Garden Grove, Calif./Santiago), who showed flashes of his outstanding potential and ability to throw the ball down field. 

Parrish, who will be a senior this fall, played in eight games and threw for a team-high 911 yards and six scores on 75-of-137 passing in the air.  His season was highlighted by a career-high 404 yards passing in a win at Indianapolis (Oct. 11) as he completed 26-of-41 balls with four TD's, helping him set a new school record with 477 total offensive yards after replacing Schneider, who was injured in the opening stanza.

"Kyle continued to battle for the job in the spring and should challenge for the position throughout the fall," McCarthy said.  "He's a great passer with good accuracy and can also run well."

Both Schneider and Parrish are back and figure to have more command of the offense heading into the 2009 campaign.  However, they will be expected to cut down on mistakes this time around after a year of seasoning in the system. 

Schneider entered fall camp as the frontrunner to win the starting job again this season after a strong spring, but both are likely to play and could be on the field at the same time, which occured at various points last season when Schneider was shifted to a wideout position.

In this year's annual Crimson and Gold Spring Game, Schneider earned offensive MVP honors by helping account for four touchdowns while showing an improved passing touch.  He ran for two scores, tossed a nine-yard scoring pass and also caught a 20-yard touchdown reception from redshirt freshman quarterback Robert Banaszak (Rockford), who could challenge both Schneider and Parrish for playing time this fall following a solid redshirt year.

"Robert Banaszak is closing the gap and has made a nice adjustment to our system," FSU head coach Jeff Pierce said.  "He's getting ready to step in and do what we need him to do if called upon."

Pierce has long stressed the importance of having more than one quarterback in the Bulldogs' spread-type offense and that shouldn't be cause for concern this fall with two proven commodities at the position in Schneider and Parrish along with a talented youngster waiting in the wings in Banaszak who has the tools to be a quality playmaker at the position.

"It's a competitive situation at the quarterback spot," Pierce said.  "In our type of offense, you need a couple of guys who can make plays and we certainly like what these guys bring to the table and how they've developed."

The Bulldogs also brought in three freshman quarterbacks as part of this year's recruiting class in Michael Buday (Portage/Hackett Catholic Central), Jarrett Leister (St. Louis/Mount Pleasant) and Jace Heneveld (Zeeland/East), although its likely a few if not all of them could redshirt this year with the experienced trio in front of them returning.  All three had strong prep careers and enter the program with outstanding credentials in their own right.

Next Installment:  The "Countdown To Kickoff" series will resume on Tuesday (Aug. 18) with a look at the backfield.

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