Improving Accuracy, Decision Making

The Broncos have had their fair share of challenges during the last couple of season on the football field. However, there has been no bigger challenge than that of the quarterback not since early in the game against Eastern Michigan during the 2001 season. During that game former Bronco quarterback Jeff Welsh went down with an injury and since then the Broncos have been working to solve the problem that arose that day.

Coming back to today as the Broncos are getting closer and closer to the 2003-football season they are heading into the summer with the challenge all but solved. Following this years spring game Coach Darnell named senior Chad Munson, redshirt senior Jon Drach and redshirt sophomore Blayne Baggett as the three who are fighting for the starting position. Although he didn't name a starter he did say that one of the three would earn the starting position and would be named the starter early in summer camp.

Quarterbacks coach, Coach Charley Molnar added on to what Coach Darnell said, "right now, at the end of spring ball, without evaluating the tapes we went into today with Chad Munson, Jon Drach and Blayne Baggett being the three quarterbacks right now. Those three have separated themselves a little bit more above the other two guys at this stage." Coach Molnar continued, "Whoever starts the Michigan State game, right now Chad Munson would have the upper hand; he was the starter throughout the spring and was fairly consistent on most days. He's no lock for the job though he is obvious the lead horse going into camp. Whoever ultimately ends up starting against Michigan State will be the guy who makes the most progress throughout the summer and summer camp."

Munson joined the Broncos in 2002 and in his first season he completed 52.4% of his passes. Munson threw the ball 309 times, completing 162 for 2,160 yards and 14 touchdowns. However he threw 17 interceptions and finished with an efficiency rating of 115.09. Munson told us how important it was for him to get that year of experience and how he felt about the upcoming season. "I have a lot better understanding of the offense compared to last year. I feel a lot more confident coming in throwing to receivers. Receivers and I are like on a whole other level together." Munson continued, "but like I said we have a big play offense now and I'm excited about that, we get the ball down the field. We got guys that can get hit and even make big plays out of it. Give the ball to our running backs and we don't have to throw the ball we're going to try to get the ball to our backs out of the backfield a little more, like dumping it to him. So, that's a big change from the way adjusted last year."

Last season Drach had improved over his performance during the 2001 season. Drach completed 80 of his 151 passes for 892 yards, 3 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, a 53% completion percentage and an efficiency rating of 103.86. Drach's season high rush of 15-yards against Purdue was also his only rushing touchdown of the season.

Heading into the 2003 season, Drach is thankful for the competition he had during spring practice this season. "I think we had a great spring. Probably the best spring since I've been here in the five years. It was always competitive with me, Chad, and Blayne, and Robbie and all those guys," he said. "I think we push each other to be a little bit better because nobody wants to have the upper hand. Everybody wants one-up the other guy. But, at the same time we're all friends, we all help each other out as best as we can and I think it really bled. In an atmosphere that was very competitive, that made practice very competitive and made up drills very competitive it really bred a better football team."

Drach has set a two-part goal for himself this season, "I would like to win the starting job to start with. Second of all I would like to win the MAC Championship with this team and build an atmosphere that's team oriented." He continued to tell us, "not so much an individual any more. I think, in the past it has been a little bit focused on an individual as "I want to this" and "I want to do that". This year it's going to be "we want to do this" and "we want to do that" and I think that's how you move yourself on to the finals." With the competition at quarterback this season not one of the three quarterbacks can let up if they want to be named starter.

The third part of this amazing trio of quarterbacks is Baggett. Baggett made his collegiate debut last season in the season opener against Indiana State and he made his debut a memorable one. Under center for the first time he completed his first pass for a 12-yard touchdown to former Bronco, Mobolaji Afariogun. Baggett completed just 2 of 6 passes for 21 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception.

According to Munson, with the aid of the Seelye Center, spring practice went extremely well in helping the team prepare for the upcoming season. "Spring went real well. I think having the Seelye Center helped us out tremendously. We did a lot of good things offensively," he said. "I think we are a lot more explosive than we were last year. We got big play guys and we have guys up front that can protect and then we still have Phil Reed and then Trovon Riley and Daniel Marks. But all three of them have been in at anytime and made big plays. Offensively I think we're real stout."

Waiting in the wings behind the trio of Munson, Drach and Baggett is redshirt sophomore Robbie Haas and redshirt freshman Patrick Stetson. Haas came to the Broncos last season from Ricks Junior College as a sophomore while Stetson came to the Broncos from Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky. Coach Molnar told us why Haas and Stetson are currently lower on the depth chart, "Robbie Haas I think, and Patrick, have made good strides through this spring. Why they're in that second wave of quarterbacks as opposed to in that first wave is because really they just need to be more consistent. Robbie has a strong arm and a good understanding of the game and great work ethic." Coach Molnar continued, "he needs just to be more consistent with his delivery and with accuracy. Patrick Stetson has to get a little bit better footwork. Pays attention, he needs to be a little bit stronger, he's very young. There's not great expectations placed on either of their shoulders right now. They're both young in the program. Those other three guys should be a cut above those two just based on their experience and time in."

New to the Broncos this season is junior transfer Ryan Cubit. Cubit transferred from Rutgers University to Western Michigan University in January following a disappointing season in which he was injured and was removed from the starting spot. While at Rutgers in 2002 Cubit completed 64 out 141 passes for 657 yards, 5 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, a completion percentage of 45.4 and an efficiency rating of 87.72. Cubit, who played as a true freshman at Rutgers, will be redshirted this season while he sits out the mandatory one-year for a transfer student.

Joining the Broncos in August will be freshman Oseloka Keys. Keys, a standout at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan led his teams to the quarterfinals of Michigan High School Athletic Association state football playoffs last season. Keys threw for over 1,800 yards, 18 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. On the ground he gained 579 yards and scored 5 touchdowns.

Over the last two seasons the Broncos quarterbacks have struggled with accuracy, decision-making and ball control. These issues were focused on in the spring and the quarterbacks will refine them during the summer camp. Coach Molnar want to reduce the number of sacks and interceptions, "very simply, we want to reduce the number of sacks regardless of who is ultimately responsible for the sack. Number two is we would like to increase our touchdown to interception ratio. We want to change that into a much more favorable ratio."

Munson concurred what his new quarterback coach said; "the biggest thing is releasing the ball on time. We're getting the ball off a lot quicker this time around. Stopping all the sacks we had last year, we had like about fifty sacks last year. We're trying to lower that number down, lower the picks, throwing the ball on target, improve our accuracy as quarterbacks and improve our efficiency as a quarterback."

When a team consistently makes the mistakes of throwing interceptions, taking sacks and not completing passes it takes it's toll which was evident in at least four games last season. In three of those games, the Broncos were either leading or tied heading into the fourth quarter before losing by 4 points or less. "I think our big emphasis is finishing. I don't think we finished some games last year. We let the games get away from us the last four minutes and we're not going to let that happen this year," Drach said. "We're going to play the whole sixty minutes and we are going to finish the game stronger than we started the game. That includes nobody not being tired, everyone's fundamentals are key and their mental state is right. We've been doing a lot of little drills and stuff even at the end of practice that are just mental things but they really make you focus."

No matter how the quarterback battle turns out every single one of these quarterbacks continue to be friends. Munson told Broncos Illustrated, "I think the leadership is really good right now. Our senior group is great. Jon, he's playing well. The entire quarterback group is a tight-knit group. Every single quarterback is pushing each other. We're all there for each other backing each other up. There's nobody fighting for the one spot. It's everybody pushing whoever is going to be on the field to be the best quarterback that they can be and everybody else is going to help. Like when we were switching teams the other quarterbacks are over there but they stayed as a group, we stayed as a group and fought against each other but still you know under our breath we're cheering each other on."

Talking to Munson and Drach one could sense what they are working for. Both of them don't want to let up an inch because it is the ultimate prize they want. They both told us they want the Mid-American Conference Championship this season.

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