By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published in the Hillsdale Daily News on March 19, 2009
Weatherhead is out due to injury
So much for a smooth transition from year one as a starter to year two for quarterback Troy Weatherhead.
He ended last season on the upswing and finished 2008 with 2,874 yards and 21 touchdowns against 10 interceptions, but an injury suffered during intramural basketball this January put a quick halt to his progression.
“He hurt his knee, broke a bone in his leg, was on crutches and immobilized for a while,” Charger head coach Keith Otterbein said. “We looked at him here, he’s got a doctor he goes to back home and they both said the same thing. He cracked off the top of his bone, kind of just slipped while playing basketball. So he hasn’t been doing all the running, he’s been in the pool doing a little conditioning and now he’s off his crutches.”
Weatherhead has still been able to work out his upper body, but is not quite healthy enough at this point to participate in spring practices on more than a very limited basis.
Otterbein admits the injury certainly scared him a little, but he said that’s the fine line that is tiptoed when deciding to let players have some freedom. He said it’s hard to argue with allowing his guys to play intramural sports, because it facilitates competition, is a good way to stay fit and provides an arena to further bond with teammates.
“It’s hard because you don’t want kids to get hurt but you can get hurt slipping on ice walking to class. It’s that whole thing, do you live your life in a little bubble or do you just live?” he said. “We could say we don’t let our players play intramurals and let’s not have any fun.”
Otterbein said life is full of surprises and maybe Weatherhead’s injury could actually pay dividends for the team as a whole as long as he fully recovers.
“Why’d it happen? I don’t know — maybe so those other three other guys can go beat each other’s brains out this spring and compete so we can figure out who our number two quarterback is,” he said.
Last season Weatherhead played with a slight tear in his medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his knee, when doctors originally thought he had a total tear of the MCL and some damage in his anterior cruciate ligament as well.
The QB depth chart is far from set
With Weatherhead sidelined the question becomes: Who will step up in his absence? All the signs point to Weatherhead being fully recovered in the next few months, but starting Tuesday three other QBs will have the perfect platform to impress the Charger coaching staff.
Junior Brad Otterbein, Keith’s son, redshirt sophomore Matt Bryan and redshirt freshman Anthony Misfud will all duke it out to earn possible playing time, but most likely to just solidify their spot as the main backup according to their head coach.
Otterbein admitted that every job on the board is open for opportunity, but it would take a lot for someone to beat out Weatherhead, in part because of the leadership qualities he demonstrated last season.
“I’ve said a lot of times what Troy has is a very calm demeanor on game day and he doesn’t get rattled, doesn’t get flustered,” he said.
Otterbein said that his coaching staff will grade all three of the backups on things such as play selection, their arm strength and accuracy and their overall understanding of how to execute the offense. What it ultimately comes down to though is who can go out and put points on the board come game day.
“A lot of times it just comes down to a gut feeling of what’s the right thing, the ‘it’,” Otterbein said. “You just know and there is no number of testing statistics you can vary, there’s no completion percentage…you just get a feel for who can move the football team and get it in the end zone. After 30 years hopefully you can figure it out a little bit.”
One of the more intriguing talents on the entire team is Misfud, the son of former Charger receiving star Dave Misfud. Misfud played well enough in high school to garner interest from D I-AA schools like Richmond and Davidson last winter.
He gained about 15 pounds in his first year on campus and now stands 6-4, 208 pounds. Despite the hype and a year of college workouts under his belt Otterbein refused to give him an edge over any of the other signal-callers.
“He’s a good football player, there’s no question. He’s a good football player and he works real hard at his skills, so that’s a tough combination to beat,” he said with a smile.
2009 recruiting class now at 18
The Charger recruiting class has ballooned from 13 to 18 players since National Signing Day and two of the athletes are especially notable, one for his potential and one for his local ties.
On signing day Otterbein said he was hoping to bring in one or two more linebackers to solidify that position. He did just that by bringing in two, including a South Carolina prospect who he said could possibly even see playing time as a freshman if everything works out.
6-2, 221 pound Daniel Gaines hails from Simpsonville, S.C. and according to Otterbein, linebackers coach John Lindley received a recruiting e-mail on Gaines, did his homework and in a short time the two sides found it was a natural fit for him to become a Charger.
“He’s got a good nose for the ball, he’s active, runs pretty well…you know if he can run and hit and find the football and has good instincts, he can play” Otterbein said.
Gaines was looking for a school to go into pre-med at and although he could’ve likely been a preferred walk-on at bigger schools he decided on Hillsdale after making his campus visit.
While Gaines is a product of the South, a product of Jonesville High School will also be joining the Chargers come fall.
Halfback Casey Clow, who is listed at 5-8, 171 pounds, will likely red-shirt as a freshman, but Otterbein said the Comet star has everything he looks for in prospective recruits.
Clow is just the latest local product the Chargers have brought in the last few years, but Otterbein said just because he’s from the area doesn’t mean he’ll automatically be successful.
“A lot of time lately recruiting local guys has turned out pretty well, but it doesn’t always,” he said.
Also added to the Chargers roster in the last six weeks are three more Michigan players: Offensive lineman Benjamin Jones (6-3, 200) out of Muskegon Catholic Central, defensive lineman Zachary Morelli (6-1, 208) from Roosevelt and linebacker Devin Moynihan (5-10, 222) from Churchill High School.
Staff continuity = advantage Chargers
While players come and go it should be noted that Otterbein has been able to retain the core assets of his coaching staff for a while now, and this year is no different.
That fact alone allows the staff to focus more on training and analyzing than making sure everyone’s on the same page, which is a huge plus in Otterbein’s mind.
“Staff continuity is one of the biggest components of a successful program. Year in and year out if people are with each other it’s kind of like a marriage — the longer you’re married the more you’re going to figure out the way the thing works,” he said. “You’re going to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your partner and each other and we figure out the strengths and weaknesses of our football staff and adapt, adjust and tweak.”
He said that he doesn’t really enjoy hearing himself talk and having meetings just for the sake of it because he’d much rather be focusing on the Xs and Os.