QB guru: WMU's Terrell had Pro Day rivaling Stafford, Bradford

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Zach Terrell

Terry Shea knows quarterbacks. He's spent the better part of 50 years coaching one after another, and in recent years, he's seen the Pro Days of the likes of Matthew Stafford, Robert Griffin III and Sam Bradford.

Bradford, in particularly, had a Pro Day for the ages, by all accounts.

And then Wednesday happened.

"I remember when Sam Bradford put his together, and some personnel from the Cowboys said, 'That was the best Pro Day since Troy Aikman," Shea said Wednesday. "Well, this one was pretty special today."

Zach Terrell, a four-year quarterback at Western Michigan, participated in Pro Day on Wednesday on the Kalamazoo campus, and while he hardly was the marquee player on display -- many NFL teams were there to see wide receiver and possible first-round pick, Corey Davis, who didn't participate because of a nagging ankle injury, and a mountain of an offensive lineman in Taylor Moton – Terrell opened some eyes, one throw at a time.

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Terrell was put through the wringer, asked to throw 51 passes -- in 17 groups of three, a program designed to keep up a rhythm -- and was off on only one, an approximate 45-yard post corner, according to Shea's score sheet.

That's a score of 98 percent, or a solid A. Terrell, winner of the Campbell Trophy, or the "Academic Heisman," knows all about A’s.

What he doesn't know all about is the NFL taking notice of him. After all, he wasn't even invited to the Combine earlier this month in Indianapolis.

"I was absolutely stunned. I've had them all, I've had guys that went to the Combine and then I had a couple who didn't," said Shea, a former quarterbacks coach with the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins and then-St. Louis Rams. "In this case, I was absolutely stunned.

"I know for a fact of some of the quarterbacks who were at that Combine, I just shake my head.

"Based on what he was able to accomplish and as many yards as he threw for and his touchdown-to-interception ratio -- it was probably No. 1 in the country -- and he led his team to an undefeated year and he threw for whatever he threw for. It wasn't like he went in and played 12 games. He played for four years.

"I just shake my head."

Zach Terrell led Western Michigan to a  13-1 record this season, including the Mid-American Conference championship.

Terrell, 23, a Fort Wayne, Ind., native, came to Western Michigan after being recruited by then-head coach Bill Cubit.

Cubit was fired shortly thereafter and replaced by P.J. Fleck, who didn't immediately hit it off with Terrell, and vice-versa. Fleck is in your face, always "on," while Terrell is more subtle and measured in his communication.

Fleck offered to help Terrell transfer. And he thought about it.

But he passed, and the quarterback and coach would embark on quite a journey together -- from a 1-11 first season to a 13-1 senior season that included a Mid-American Conference championship and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl against Wisconsin, the only loss.

This past year, Terrell was 263-for-377 (70 percent) for 3,533 yards, throwing for 33 touchdowns and four interceptions.

Shea saw very little of Terrell’s season, and Terrell wasn't on his radar until they started working together and watching film in Phoenix in January, as the QB prepared for his showcase in front of the scouts.

Shea's first impression: "He's got a tremendously bright quarterback IQ."

"I think what's gonna happen is if some NFL team does their due diligence, they're gonna connect all the dots," said Shea, himself a quarterback for Oregon in the 1960s.

"They're gonna say a year from now, 'How did we ever land this guy?'"

While Terrell doesn't have the arm of a Stafford -- the Lions longtime quarterback who worked with Shea before he was taken No. 1 overall in the 2009 draft -- or the cache of a Bradford or Griffin, two other former Shea students, he has other things that make him standout.

It starts with the smarts, of course. This past year, Terrell has been working toward his master's degree.

Then there's his accuracy, and tremendous footwork, which reminds Shea of Stafford. That might come from Terrell's basketball background in high school.

An upside lower body, Shea said, also stands out, as does his ability to drop back -- when "not many college quarterbacks these days have even a clue how to drop back of center," Shea said.

Most draft experts don't have Terrell on their radar. CBS Sports, for one, lists him as the 19th-best prospect at his position ahead of the April draft.

That's two spots behind his own MAC rival, Central Michigan's Cooper Rush.

Terrell beat Central Michigan the last three years, among many other opponents.

Playing in the little-noticed MAC, of course, hasn't helped his case among NFL gurus, and he's very likely to go undrafted and sign somewhere as a free agent.

Don't be surprised if the tale of Terrell picks up steam after that and lasts a long time, Shea said.

"I think he has a chance -- he doesn't necessarily have to be a starter every year of his NFL career -- but he could be a 10-year veteran quarterback, because he's so easy with his movement and he's so bright," said Shea, 70, who also was an offensive coordinator at California, Stanford and San Jose State, and a head coach at San Jose State and Rutgers.

"He's got that quarterback demeanor that you just fall in love with."

Getting to know Zach Terrell

Position: QB

Age: 23 (May 1, 1993)

Hometown: Fort Wayne, Ind.

College: Western Michigan

Height/weight: 6-1/212

Career highlights: Four-year starter at Western Michigan, throwing for 12,100 yards and 96 touchdowns, to just 31 interceptions. Completed 66 percent of his passes, including 70 percent as a senior. ... Led WMU to a 13-0 start and a MAC championship in 2016, before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. ... Won the Campbell Trophy, or the "Academic Heisman," as a senior.

Twitter @tonypaul1984