Sticking With It

For the first time in quite a long time at the end of a football season Western Michigan is in a situation where there is no clear standout at the quarterback position and at the same time have more depth at quarterback than Bronco fans are used to seeing.

Jon Drach and Chad Munson have seen the bulk of the playing time this season and have thrown for a combined 222 completions in 429 attempts for 2,381 yards. They have thrown 17 touchdowns and 18 interceptions (Munson has thrown 14 touchdowns and interceptions). The only other quarterback to see any action for the Broncos this season has been Blayne Baggett. Blayne's highlight of the season came in the first game against Indiana State where he threw a touchdown pass on just his first collegiate pass attempt.

Behind Drach, Munson, and Baggett there is a logjam of quarterbacks. The Broncos redshirted sophomore junior college transfer Robbie Haas to ensure he has at least one full season to learn the Broncos system. Jim Kirby, another junior college transfer will be a senior next season. The Broncos also had 3 quarterbacks walk-on this season. From Portage Northern High School Mike Slater joined the team in fall camp, as did Patrick Stetson from Seneca High School in Louisville, Kentucky and Brad Burke from Dearborn High School in Dearborn, Michigan.

Perhaps one of the biggest pick-ups for Western Michigan University was when the Broncos picked up Mitch John, a redshirt freshman from La Jolla High School in San Diego California. While at La Jolla, John set quite a few passing records for the Vikings. Over his career he completed 214 passes in 479 attempts for 3,738 yards and 34 touchdowns on a predominately running team that loved to use the play action. "We got put into a position where a running back my junior year, he's at Colorado State right now, blew out his knee," John said. "So we started throwing the ball more and I had some really good receivers and you just plugged away at it and our school had been primarily a running team. More play action type of team than being kind of opened up so four receiver set and just went out and had fun then."

John had an interesting journey on his way to becoming a Bronco on the Western Michigan University football team. Pittsburgh was heavily recruiting him, until he decided to wait until the end of his senior season to commit. John told Broncos Illustrated, "Pittsburgh actually offered me a scholarship my junior year, March of my junior year. I went back there in the summer their camp and I didn't commit because I didn't like the campus really. I didn't really want to commit before my senior season anyway, just because and they decided they didn't want to take a quarterback anyway because some other kid came in, Palko or something the year after me."

By waiting for his senior season to end, that opened a few more doors for John, but only briefly. "Then Houston kind of fell through too and then South Florida and Oklahoma State were interested in me too." John continued, "but they told me to go ahead, they weren't sure that there would be a scholarship available so at the time this was the only scholarship I had and I liked it here. So, I committed."

So how would a kid from Southern California find out about Western Michigan University, a school in a region where the climate is like night and day? We will let John tell you in his own words, "I actually watched a game on TV. I think they were playing Marshall in the MAC Championship and it seemed like the program was on the rise. I sent a bunch of tapes out to a whole bunch of schools and coaches were really interested, actually found me kind of late. I came out basically because when I came out on the recruiting trip the situation with (Jeff) Welsh leaving after that year I thought I might have a chance to start as a redshirt freshman. That was incentive and also the facilities are extremely nice here and definitely a factor in coming here too."

Unfortunately for John, an injury to his hand before spring practice earlier this year kept him from getting the kind of chance that he was hoping to get. "Obviously I didn't get any reps, pretty much all through spring ball. That's kind of the chance to show that you can play," John said. "So I got limited reps in fall camp because of that so that definitely hurt. I understand why I didn't get so many reps in fall camp due to that."

Within the last several weeks there has been a lot of talk concerning the quarterback position at Western Michigan. There is talk that there is no clear leader in who should be the starter for the 2003 season. There has also been talk that Slater is moving to the wide receiver position and that John has been talking about leaving the school. While it cannot yet be confirmed that Slater is in fact moving to wide receiver, John himself talked about his situation with the Broncos, "it always goes through your head. I'm sitting on the depth chart on a 3-8 team. I mean it's frustrating that you don't get your chance to play, but Coach Darnell said that if things didn't go well this season that in spring he said he could open it up. So I'm going to work as hard as I can and be ready in the spring to go earn it."

Whomever the Broncos pick to be the starting quarterback for the 2003 season, look for the potential starter to make a strong statement on his own behalf during spring practice and the spring game. Mitch John is one who is hoping to make the strongest statement among all of the quarterbacks and with Head Coach Gary Darnell at the helm, whoever is the starting quarterback will have made a very huge statement on the field.

With just one game left in the 2002 season, we had a chance to hear John's thoughts, as a Californian, on the Western Michigan vs. Central Michigan rivalry, ""I didn't know how intense of a rivalry it was until last year. I saw how both teams got up for it, our players. It seems like it's a lot more important in the Michigan players, the rivalry in between, because to me I wanted to beat the teams like Michigan and Purdue, the bigger schools. But there's no doubt they don't like us too much and we don't like them and I'm starting to really realize what the rivalry is about." After Saturday's contest look for John to start working at moving up the depth chart.

Broncos Illustrated Top Stories