Note: One in a series of previews of the Central Michigan football team as it prepares for its 2018 season opener at Kentucky on Sept. 1. Today: The Quaterbacks. Thursday: The Runningbacks.
Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – For Tony Poljan and Central Michigan football, it was never a question of if, but when.
The when is nigh.
Poljan, a redshirt sophomore, enters the 2018 season as the Chippewas’ No. 1 quarterback after spending two years as an understudy, first to Cooper Rush and then, last season, to Shane Morris.
“I like where he is from a physical standpoint,” fourth-year CMU coach John Bonamego said of Poljan. “He’s always looking to do extra. He just puts an awful lot of time and effort into everything he does. He really epitomizes what you want your program to be about in terms of work ethic and commitment.”
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound Poljan was a part of Bonamego’s first recruiting class at CMU, signing in February, 2016 after a brilliant career at Lansing Catholic High School, the same school that produced Rush, who is now with the Dallas Cowboys.
Poljan’s father, Rick, was a teammate of Bonamego’s at CMU from 1983-86 and that connection helped the Chippewas land the younger Poljan, who was highly sought-after coming out of high school.
There is always a learning curve, even for a blue chipper, and for Poljan it’s been about biding his time, learning his lessons, and getting better as he took snaps in occasional relief of Morris last season, completing 13 of 21 pass attempts for 78 yards. He also put his athleticism on display, rushing for 125 yards and catching five passes for 97 yards.
“Playing wideout definitely gave me a different perspective about how the game is played,” Poljan said, adding that he has improved “everything” about his game since he arrived on campus after throwing for more than 6,000 yards, rushing for more than 3,000 yards and producing a combined (throwing and running) 116 touchdowns at Lansing Catholic. “At the end of the day it really comes down to your preparation. The more prepared you are for practice, the more confident you’re going to be.”
The Chippewas have the luxury of an experienced backup signal-caller in Tommy Lazzaro, a senior who has yet to step on the field after transferring from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College. At Dodge City, Lazzaro completed 57.5 percent of his passes in throwing for 2,237 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015.
Also in the mix redshirt freshman Austin Hergott and true freshman George Pearson of Matawan, N.J.
A year ago, Morris came in as a graduate transfer, won the starting job in a battle with Poljan and became highly productive in then-first-year coordinator Ostrowsky’s system, an uptempo, no-huddle scheme designed to maximize the number of offensive snaps and wear down defenses.
The optimistic view is that the Chippewas, with a year for the system to have taken root, can be just as productive with Poljan taking snaps as it was with Morris manning the controls.
Poljan, Ostrowsky said, “is just a great worker, completely committed to the craft and a pleasure to coach and to be around. A long way to go -- a long way to go -- and we’re taking it one day at a time.
“He’s going to continue to grow in all phases of what it means to be a top-tier Division I quarterback. Besides being a strong-armed, athletic, tough kid who’s is going to be a consistent leader on and off the field, your ability to process information is so important to playing the position at this level and he continues to grow and get better at it because his work ethic is consistent and it’s every day.”