Canton, Ohio — Central Michigan third-year coach John Bonamego can’t wait to see the quarterback competition between Tony Poljan and Shane Morris when camp gets underway this weekend in Mount Pleasant.
The Cooper Rush era at Central Michigan ended with Rush throwing for 12,891 career yards and finishing 14 yards shy of the program record held by Dan LeFevour, who led the Chippewas to three Mid-American Conference championships (2006, ’07, ’09).
Morris will be playing with a sense of urgency as a graduate transfer from Michigan where he played in 15 games for the Wolverines.
Poljan had a strong spring while playing in new offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky’s spread offense. The Chippewas finished 6-7 last season (3-5 MAC), including a 55-10 loss to Tulsa in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Bonamego is confident that either Morris or Poljan will have plenty of weapons to work with in senior receivers Corey Willis (72 receptions, 1,091 yards, nine touchdowns) and Mark Chapman (44 catches, 592 yards, four scores), sophomore Brandon Childress (23 receptions, 327 yards) and senior tight end Tyler Conklin (42 catches, 560 yards, six touchdowns).
“It will be a great (quarterback) battle and I wish we had the same dynamic at every position on our team,” Bonamego said. “I think competition brings out the best in us. The thing that I do know about both of them is that they are both very skilled and highly competitive people.
“Tony did a great job this spring. You’re going to be hard pressed to find anyone more competitive than him. We’re in a good spot. I’m anxious to see how it plays out. Shane’s experience and maturity stands out. He’s played in at least three different systems while at Michigan. It’s his last go-round and he’s desperate. I haven’t seen him throw one ball yet, but our players have. I know Tyler (Conklin) has caught balls from him.
“What makes it good is that for whoever wins this quarterback battle, we’re going to have the opportunity to surround that guy with a lot of playmakers. Tyler is a guy I’m really proud of. He’s a blue-collar kid who transferred in (from Northwood) without a scholarship and covered kicks his first year, excelled at that and just progressed from there. He can run the whole route tree, has great hands, he’s tough and really developed into a good leader.”
Conklin emerged as one of the premier tight ends in the MAC last season, hauling in a pair of touchdown passes from Rush in the memorable 30-27 upset win at No. 22 Oklahoma State.
Central Michigan was picked to finish fifth the MAC West during media day Wednesday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“We’re the underdog and I’m happy about that,” Conklin said. “We return everybody on offense besides the quarterback and that will be a great battle between those two (Poljan and Morris). They’re going to have a lot of weapons and options after we figure out who wins that battle, and the defense returns six or seven people. We expect to win the MAC championship.”
Conklin is looking forward to seeing Willis perform his senior year.
“He brings a mismatch and the good thing about our offense now is you can’t double team anybody,” Conklin said. “If you double team Corey then that leaves me and if you double team me that leaves Corey open. And then you have Mark Chapman on the other side who is a big-play threat, along with an up-and-coming player in Brandon Childress.”
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 2017 SCHEDULE
Aug. 31, Rhode Island, 7
Sept. 9, at Kansas, 4
Sept. 16, at Syracuse, 3:30
Sept. 23, Miami (Ohio), TBD
Sept. 30, at Boston College, TBD
Oct. 7, at Ohio, TBD
Oct. 14, Toledo, 3:30
Oct. 21, at Ball State, 3
Nov. 1, at Western Michigan, 8
Nov. 8, Eastern Michigan, TBD
Nov. 14, at Kent State, TBD
Nov. 24, Northern Illinois, TBD