From one quarterback to another: Poljan prepares to receive play caller spot from starter Morris
During spring and fall practice, Central Michigan football quarterbacks Shane Morris and Tony Poljan were in a heated battle for the starting job.
As the season draws to a close for the Chippewas, there is hardly any competition between the two quarterbacks. Instead, a passing of the torch from Morris to Poljan.
“I’ve been learning a lot from Shane,” Poljan said. “There’s still a lot to learn and I have to continue to grow. I have been taking a lot of reps at practice and I’m looking to take over next year.”
Poljan took a redshirt in his first season with CMU in 2016. After Cooper Rush departed for the NFL, it only seemed as if it was Poljan’s time to shine. Instead, Morris transferred from the University of Michigan to CMU and won the starting quarterback job.
After taking the top quarterback spot, Morris fought to maintain the job, then accepted task of helping Poljan prepare for the future. In the meantime, Poljan spent time at the receiver position and as a wildcat quarterback.
“I’ve been able to help him through film and practice with the little things. To come in and have the ability to play receiver and being open to do that is huge,” Morris said. “Just to be able to swallow his pride and play receiver says a lot about him as a teammate.”
While Morris continuously helps Poljan grow as a quarterback, head coach John Bonamego has made it a priority to get him involved in the offense.
“I said from the beginning of the year that Poljan was going to play an important part in the offense,” Bonamego said. “He’s taken snaps at quarterback and receiver when the game was on the line. He’s been tested under the fire and has had the chance to go out and compete.”
In CMU’s 42-23 victory over Kent State on Nov. 14, Poljan managed to score his first collegiate touchdown on a three-yard run. The first to congratulate him was Morris, which impressed Bonamego.
"(Morris and Poljan) have competed very hard with one another,” Bonamego said. “At the same time, there is a healthy respect. I think that helped set the tone for the rest of the team.”
Playing receiver as a quarterback hit close to home for Morris, who spent his final season with Michigan as a wide out. In the late stages of the 2016 Spring Game for the Wolverines, Morris lined up at receiver and caught a 25-yard pass from John O’Korn.
“I learned a lot about routes and stuff as a quarterback you can’t see usually, but can see from the receiver position,” Morris said.
Poljan has made five receptions for 97 yards this season and understands the same concepts Morris understood as a member of Michigan’s football team.
“It’s definitely given me a different perspective in what the wide receivers see in comparison to what the quarterbacks see,” Poljan said.
Since joining the receiver corps, Poljan has also been able to look to senior receivers Corey Willis, Mark Chapman and Eric Cooper. As a matter of fact, Willis even thought Poljan could have been the starter under center this season.
“I think Poljan is the ultimate competitor,” Willis said. “Being a competitor myself, we just clicked since day one. I don’t think there are many quarterbacks who can play receiver at a high level, so that shows he’s a great player.”
Morris said the most important aspect of the game going forward for Poljan is getting in-game experience, since the redshirt freshman is young in terms of playing time.
“This offseason is going to be huge for him as a leader,” Morris said. “He’s great player and I think he will do well next year as the guy.”
Looking ahead to the 2018 season, Poljan believes he will be ready to lead the Chippewas. Nevertheless, he knows nothing is guaranteed.
“Ultimately, it’s the coach’s decision,” Poljan said. “I can only control the factors I can control. I’ll come every day with an open mind ready to go. When the times comes, I’ll be ready.”
“Poljan’s going to be the next quarterback at Central Michigan,” Willis said.