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Central Michigan searches for quarterback answers with spring practice impending

Central Michigan quarterback George Pearson stands on the sidelines for the New Mexico Bowl against San Diego State Dec. 21 at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

When Central Michigan takes the field for the start of spring practices on Feb. 15, it will do so without a set starting quarterback for the second straight season. 

However, at this time last year, the options were much more clear. Graduate transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady was becoming acclimated to the program. It didn't take him long to assert himself as the starting quarterback, a spot he would hold for the entirety of the season except for an injury that cost him four weeks. 

This time around, second-year coach Jim McElwain is left with uncertainty at the position. 

Though it appeared the Chippewas had their answer at the position in Texas Tech transfer Jett Duffey, he was denied admission to Central Michigan as a previously unknown 2019 Title IX investigation was made known to the administration.

Here are three options for Central Michigan at the quarterback position heading into the 2020 season: 

Graduate transfer market

Central Michigan plucked both Dormady and Duffey from the graduate transfer market, meaning McElwain isn't opposed to securing a quarterback with immediate eligibility. Though many of the quarterbacks in the transfer portal have already signed or committed elsewhere, two intriguing options remain. 

Joe Critchlow, formerly a quarterback at Brigham Young University, remains on the market and has two years of eligibility remaining. Critchlow, who is "interested" in playing for the Chippewas, has connections to defensive coordinator Robb Akey. The junior from BYU took two years off following his high school graduation to serve as a church missionary in Montreal, Canada.

In his career, Critchlow has thrown three touchdowns and four interceptions in eight career games. He's compiled 715 yards through the air and has a career passer rating of 111.5. Critchlow has the in-game experience and will likely jump at the opportunity to compete for a starting job.

Another option still available through the transfer market with immediate eligibility is former Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey. Ramsey is a more polished option than Critchlow, having played in 31 games throughout three seasons with the Hoosiers. 

Ramsey has thrown for over 6,000 yards in his career to go with 42 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He would be a high-profile player in McElwain and offensive coordinator Charlie Frye's offense. Given his skill set and the overall body of work, he will likely draw interest from higher-profile schools.

Central Michigan quarterback David Moore listens for the call from offensive coordinator Charlie Frye during practice Oct. 29 at the East Grass Practice Field in Mount Pleasant. 

Senior David Moore

When Moore was on the field for the Chippewas last season, he demonstrated an ability to sling the football around with the best. In his final start of the season, Moore threw for 279 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 42-16 victory over Eastern Michigan. In four games as a starter, Moore crossed over 300 passing yards twice and looked to be a potential star moving forward.

He was then hit with a 365-day suspension for testing positive for an NCAA banned substance. Moore appealed the suspension and will await a verdict from the NCAA, which should become public by the time the regular season rolls around.

Should Moore's suspension be dropped, the Chippewas have their answer at quarterback.

If the appeal is denied and suspension is upheld, Moore will be ineligible to compete until Oct. 7.

The 2020 season is his final year of eligibility. 

Central Michigan quarterback Daniel Richardson goes through warmups before the New Mexico Bowl against San Diego State Dec. 21 at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Evaluate the remainder of the QB room

Should Central Michigan elect against bringing in a transfer and see Moore's appeal denied, the responsibility falls on a relatively inexperienced quarterback room for the Sept. 5 season opener against San Jose State.

McElwain would be forced to choose between redshirt sophomores George Pearson and John Keller, redshirt freshmen Daniel Richardson and true freshman Tyler Pape to take the reins of the offense for the opener. 

Of the four, Pearson is the only one to complete more than just a single pass at the collegiate level.

Richardson was sought out and promptly brought in by McElwain, hinting that the Miami native may be McElwain's quarterback of the future. In his first season with the Chippewas, Richardson went 1 of 4 for 1-yard passing in three appearances. 

Keller, as a JUCO transfer, and Pape will be in their first season with the Chippewas.

If this is the route the Chippewas are forced to take, the coaching staff will be tasked with speeding up the development of the young quarterbacks.

Following the opener against San Jose State, the Chippewas travel to Big Ten opponents Nebraska and Northwestern in back to back weeks, a daunting task for any young quarterback. 

How McElwain handles the quarterback situation will likely play a big role in not only the outcome of the 2020 season but possibly the future of the program.