Central Michigan spring football: Will Lazzaro or Dormady surface at quarterback for Chippewas?
This is the first of a series of nine Central Michigan position group previews entering spring football practice, which begins March 19. Today's edition focuses on the quarterbacks. For more, check back with Central Michigan Life over the next week.
Quarterbacks – March 4
Running backs – March 4
Wide receivers – March 5
Tight ends – March 5
Offensive line – March 6
Defensive line – March 6
Linebackers – March 7
Defensive backs – March 7
Special teams – March 8
There are no more excuses for error under center.
Seven quarterbacks infiltrate the roster, Tommy Lazzaro finally has experience at the Division I level, Tony Poljan has moved to tight end and this new guy Quinten Dormady once started at an SEC program.
Again, there is no reason to expect anything other than success at quarterback for new coach Jim McElwain.
Central Michigan's offense ranked No. 128 of 129 programs in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in 2018. The quarterbacks, four of which were sent into action, completed just 48.6 percent of passes for 1,585 yards, nine touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
For comparison purposes only, Buffalo quarterback Tyree Jackson completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 3,131 yards, 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. There were 12 individual Mid-American Conference quarterbacks that tossed more touchdowns than the combined total of CMU's quarterbacks.
Poljan was benched, Austin Hergott was yanked for his struggles, George Pearson threw an interception on his first collegiate pass and Lazzaro sustained a season-ending injury after putting together a few impressive starts.
The end result was a 1-11 overall and 0-8 MAC finish, most of which was due to offensive struggles.
Now, McElwain has moves to make. He has a few options: senior graduate transfer Dormady, senior Lazzaro, JUCO transfer David Moore or one of the younger signal callers.
Dormady's arm shines
Lazzaro completed 48.2 percent of his passes throughout seven games played last season, throwing five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. It was his first time playing at Division I football since transferring from Dodge City Community College prior to the 2016 season.
If McElwain wants a quarterback with immediate accuracy, it might not be Lazzaro. But it could be Dormady.
On multiple occasions at Tennessee, Dormady featured his ability to avoid pressure in the pocket, buy himself a few more seconds and throw an accurate strike with defenders in his grill. He also has a strong ability to sense a blitz from the defense and quickly throw over the top to a running back as a safety valve.
Dormady has above-average accuracy on the run and, at 6-foot-4, he has the ability to see over his offensive line. He completed 76-of-137 passes (55.5 percent) in six games for Tennessee in 2017, adding 6.8 yards per attempt. With run-game uncertainty, McElwain needs a quarterback who can consistently connect with a receiver on third down and air it out early in the drive.
Lazzaro's yards per attempt (5.0) didn't rank for the MAC leaderboard because he didn't have 14 attempts per CMU's 12 games played. If he did qualify, his yards per attempt would rank below Marcus Childers' 5.5 yards per attempt, which is last of all MAC starters.
Lazzaro trusted by team, has running abilities
It's no surprise that Lazzaro has the trust of his team behind him. He sat behind Cooper Rush in 2016, Shane Morris in 2017 and Poljan for a portion of 2018, meaning he spent countless hours in practice bonding with backups who are now starters at wide receiver, tight end and running back.
He also knows how everyone plays. From running back Jonathan Ward's craftiness to the specific details of wide receiver Julian Hicks' route running, Lazzaro understands. Dormany, without a practice under his belt, not so much.
The other aspect Lazzaro brings to the table is his running ability.
Carrying the ball 18 times for 102 yards in a loss to Buffalo on Oct. 6, Lazzaro became the first CMU quarterback to run for 100 yards since Dan LeFevour on Oct. 24, 2009. He nearly led a comeback against Northern Illinois on Sept. 15, passing for one touchdown and rushing for another in limited action off the bench.
Throughout the 2018 campaign, he often worked on his own to find holes in the opposition's defensive line to rush for positive yardage. He finished with 381 yards and three scores on 97 carries, an average of 3.9 yards per carry.
Dormady only has 22 career carries for 21 yards.
McElwain needs success from his quarterback
Dormady threw just one complete pass in two attempts during an injury-tested season at Houston in 2018, thus allowing him to make the rare double graduate transfer to CMU. He's also never played a full season as a college athlete.
His durability is a question, and the same goes for Lazzaro.
There's definitely a battle at quarterback, as McElwain recently called it an open position for the Chippewas. Throughout the spring practice period, the competition should trim down to two or three quarterbacks heading into fall.
Even if McElwain decides to ditch Dormady and Lazzaro for Moore, a dual-threat type, one certainty still remains – success is necessary.