While Jacory Stone went through his familiar after-practice work, catching passes from his quarterback, it was an unfamiliar face throwing him out routes Tuesday evening.
With fourth-year starter Andy Schmitt out for the rest of Eastern Michigan’s season with a torn right ACL that will require surgery, Stone started the process of getting familiar with the throwing motion of junior Kyle McMahon.
Though McMahon practiced with the first-team offense Tuesday – one day after it was made official Schmitt would be lost – coach Ron English made it clear he and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ken Karcher needed time to evaluate who would be the starter for the Eagles’ homecoming game against Temple on Oct. 3.
“I would think coach (Karcher) would want to go through this week and go through the game week, and we’ll make a decision on who we want to go out there with,” English said after Tuesday’s practice.
True freshman Alex Gillett finished last weekend’s game at Michigan after Schmitt went down in the fourth quarter. Gillett was 2-for-4 passing with 9 yards.
McMahon is familiar with being trusted into the starting role. Over the past two seasons he has been in and out of the starting spot when Schmitt had gone down with various shoulder injuries.
“You have to always expect it,” McMahon said. “As the back-up quarterback you prepare for the worst and hope for the best that the starting quarterback can make it through the season.”
McMahon started the 2009 season coming off of a separated shoulder injury and in 12 career games is 95-of-172, with five touchdowns. He’s also thrown 13 interceptions but said he already feels more comfortable in Karcher’s pro-style offense than the spread the Eagles ran in years past.
“Last year, when we ran the spread, it was kind of simplified,” McMahon said. “And now we’re out here learning fundamentals and key points. It’s definitely helped me.”
The emergence of a stable ground game – something lacking over the past few seasons – will play a key role in Schmitt’s eyes. Whether it’s McMahon or Gillett, the running back tandem of Dwayne Priest and Terrence Blevins should help whoever ultimately directs the offense.
“We’ve all seen Kyle play, and we know he can do a lot of really good things,” Schmitt said. “I’m not too worried about the quarterback situation with the way we’re running the ball.”
Stone said he is confident in whichever quarterback takes the in-game snaps, saying McMahon has the experience and is a hard thrower, but is amazed at how smart Gillett is for a freshman.
“Whoever gets that job, we’re going to be ready,” he said.
Losing a leader
Schmitt, one of 14 seniors on English’s first team as coach, said though he was carried off the field after dropping back to pass in Eastern’s 45-17 loss at Michigan, he knew something was wrong three plays earlier.
The idea of a medical redshirt – formally known by the NCAA as a medical hardship – is something that excited Schmitt and he and English looked into, but he has appeared in too many career games.
“I would love to pay another year, but it doesn’t look possible,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt completed 607 passes for 5,867 yards and 33 touchdowns in 29 games (22 starts). He’s also rushed for 666 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Over the span of two games late last season he set an NCAA record by completing 76 consecutive passes without an interception, breaking former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang’s mark of 70.
One of the most prolific players in school history, Schmitt owns five offensive records at EMU including the single-game passing yard total of 516 yards, set in the 2008 season-finale against Central Michigan.
English admitted the loss of Schmitt is a major curveball because the plan, at least initially, was to redshirt McMahon so he’d have two years of eligibility remaining to work within the offense.
“He’s a fantastic person, he comes from a great family and he’s a terrific leader,” English said of Schmitt. “What I’m going to miss is a guy who had to change an offense, totally embraced the change, became a captain and a team leader—you can’t get better than that.”