Last season, Eastern Michigan University’s Andy Schmitt placed himself among the best quarterbacks in the Mid-American Conference.
Schmitt, a fifth-year senior, threw for 2,648 yards and 15 touchdowns. He had a 123.96 passer rating and a 62.6 completion percentage. In the final two games of 2008, he had eight touchdown passes and threw for more than 1,000 yards.
Additionally, Schmitt set three FBS records in those games, too. In the season finale against Central Michigan he completed a record 58 passes. The previous week, against Temple, he set the record for most pass attempts (76) without an interception. And in those games combined he set the record for most completions in consecutive games (108).
Gone are Schmitt’s days of slinging the ball all over the field, though. First-year coach Ron English, who previously was the defensive coordinator for Louisville and Michigan, opted not to use last season’s spread and instead has implemented a pro-style offense.
“With this offense, we have the ability to establish a run game,” Schmitt said. “And once you get that run game going, you can establish some big plays. You can really find some open receivers. [It’s] what we’re hoping to find in these next few games, where we have to keep getting better.”
Despite being thrown into a new system, which was implemented by a coach who didn’t recruit him, Schmitt has nothing but praise for English.
“He’s been great,” Schmitt said. “He’s real intense and pays attention to detail. I’m really happy [I’ll play] one year under him.”
English likes having Schmitt lead the offense, but said he felt the quarterback didn’t have a fair chance in the team’s 27-14 loss to Army in the season opener Saturday. He was 18-of-31 for 183 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Schmitt was sacked six times in the game. In 12 games last season, he was sacked 14 times. Part of the reason for the sacks was the loss of tackle T.J. Lang, who was a fourth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in April’s NFL draft.
“We’ve lost a couple linemen,” English said. “So we did struggle a little bit against Army. He’s going to be a good quarterback. We’re just going to get better as the season comes, but we’ve got to protect him better.”
Schmitt has a strong connection with fellow fifth-year senior Jacory Stone. The 6-foot, 190-pound receiver had 88 catches for 943 yards and three touchdowns last season. Having come into the program together, the two have chemistry, and their cohesion is evident on game days.
“It’s great having him out there,” Schmitt said. “We’ve been here both for five years, and we’ve been working with each other ever since we got here.
“When you have that amount of time to work with somebody, you develop a pretty special relationship. When he’s on the field, you know what he’s going to do and where he’s going to be. As a quarterback that’s pretty comforting for you.”
After most practices, Schmitt and the other quarterbacks spend extra time with the receivers. The quarterbacks work on their footwork and accuracy, and the receivers work on their route running and hands. Stone, who had eight receptions for 97 yards Saturday, said that extra work helps build a strong, almost eerie connection among the players, explaining, “I know (Schmitt’s) ball is going to be at a certain spot.”
With his go-to receiver, a new coach and a new offense, Schmitt said he and the team have set high goals, and have a sense of optimism for the season.
“Our expectations this year are to win the MAC, and that’s what it’s got to be if you want to compete,” he said. “We’re going to set our expectations and goals high because if you don’t set them high enough you may never reach them.”
As for personal goals, Schmitt said he would like to try his hand at the professional level after his collegiate career is complete. He played for St. Johns High School and led his team to a runner-up finish in the state championship his senior season in 2005.
“If (professional football) works out, that’d be great,” said Schmitt, who is an education major. “I would love to take a chance at that dream, but if things don’t work out I’ll do the student teaching, move on, and become a teacher and a coach.”
Off the field, Schmitt, 22, sees himself as a regular, active guy.
“I love just watching sports on television and hanging around with the guys,” he said. “Basically just relaxing, being around family and friends. Sports are a big part of my life so I love watching them when I can. Other than that, that’s pretty much me.”
There’s one thing Schmitt’s definitely not interested in, though.
“I’m not into video games,” he said. “I don’t really play those.”
Schmitt spends more time in the classroom instead of on a video-game system. He was named MAC scholar athlete of the week twice last season, and was named to the conference’s all-academic team after posting a 3.37 GPA.
On the field, Schmitt knows his role as the starting quarterback for the Eagles.
“I try to lead this team the best I can both on the field and off the field and do everything I can to help this team win,” he said. “It’s the last year so just enjoy it.”