August 27, 2010

"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 2010 season opener on Friday, Sept. 3, at Hillsdale.

Big Rapids, Mich. - After starting 10 games as a freshman and directing Ferris State to a 6-5 overall record, Tom Schneider (Jerome/Addison) may have been the frontrunner at the quarterback position for the Bulldogs heading into fall camp a year ago.

Things, however, didn't go according to plan.

Schneider battled injuries early and often throughout the year while spending the majority of his time at positions other than the signal caller spot during the 2009 season. From receiver to fullback, with practice time at defensive back in between, Schneider found a way to be on the field despite a cast on one hand which made it near impossible for him to throw let alone play the quarterback position.

Hopefully, the Bulldogs won't have to utilize him in different roles this time around.

The 6-0 junior came into camp again this fall as the favorite to take snaps behind center in new offensive coordinator Chris Boden's shotgun-spread attack.  After attempting only 27 passes with 11 completions a year ago, Schneider's return to the spot and ability to both run and pass should help the Bulldogs as they work to increase their offensive production this fall.

"Tom had a good spring and picked up the new offensive system quickly," Boden said. "He's an outstanding leader with a solid mix of passing and running skills.

"We're expecting big things from him as he continues his development in the offense," he added.

Schneider displayed the ability to be a solid playmaker at the position his rookie year by leading the Bulldogs with 519 rushing yards and completing 74-of-162 passes for 884 yards in 2008.  He also led the team two seasons ago with six rushing touchdowns in his redshirt freshman campaign.  His leadership and veteran experience will be a key if the offensive unit is able to turn things around this season with the new look attack patterned off the system Mike Leach made famous while serving as the head coach at Texas Tech.

While Schneider may be the odds-on favorite to start the season opener at Hillsdale, the Bulldogs also expect sophomore Robert Banaszak (Rockford) and redshirt freshman Michael Buday (Portage/Hackett Catholic Central) to push him along the way and figure into the mix.

Banaszak was quickly forced into action at various times last fall both in relief and due to injuries to both Schneider and graduated starter Kyle Parrish, who inked with the Canadian Football League's B.C. Lions for a tryout in the offseason.  The Rockford native appeared in seven contests, but attempted only 22 passes while throwing for 122 yards and one score.  An added year of seasoning and development should be beneficial in his quest for additional time.

"Robert picked up the new system well in the spring and has both good knowledge and skills," said Boden.  "He's ready to battle for a pertinent role and should challenge for time leading our offense."

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were also pleased with the progress made by Buday in the spring.  The 6-4 redshirt freshman has a big arm and plenty of potential, according to Boden.  Buday spent his initial campaign watching from the sidelines as a redshirt last fall, but made significant progress in his transition to the collegiate game.

The past few seasons have certainly proved the Bulldogs need more than one healthy quarterback behind center, which is something head coach Jeff Pierce has long stressed no matter what system might be used offensively.  

Additionally, Ferris has traditionally expected its signal callers to be a threat both on the ground and thru the air with that not likely to change despite the new system.

In the end, the spring game showed that all three returnees bring different abilities and dimensions to the new offense, which the coaching staff hopes will help put more points on the scoreboard no matter who is behind center this fall.

"We want to see how our guys perform and develop throughout camp and it's important they continue to progress in the new system, especially at quarterback," Pierce said.

While Schneider and Banaszak might be the only players with game experience at the quarterback position, in addition to Buday, the Bulldogs also brought in four young players at the position as part of the recruiting process, including Chris Cagle (Milford/Hartland), Jason Goosen (Perrinton/Ovid-Elsie), Bryan Kiel (Grand Haven) and Taylor Masiewicz (Belmont/Rockford).  

Although it's a strong possibility most of the group of newcomers will redshirt this campaign, their overall development and progess will be critical for success down the road.

Next Installment:  The "Countdown To Kickoff" series will resume on Saturday (Aug. 28) with a look at the backfield.