Eastern Michigan quarterback Andy Schmitt balances patience with competitive drive
Time is running out on Andy Schmitt.
While the Eastern Michigan University quarterback patiently works within the confines of a new system and behind some inexperience on the offensive line, his desire to succeed before his career ends hasn't diminished.
But after being sacked six times in a 27-14 season-opening loss to Army and engineering an Eastern Michigan offense plagued by penalties and turnovers, Schmitt realizes the Eagles' offense remains a work in progress.
Yet, for a quarterback determined to change his school's football fortunes in only a short time, individual accolades for a senior just beginning his final season won't come to the surface.
"I'm not big on those 'This is my senior year' speeches because that probably doesn't matter to a freshman," he said. "My thing is why do you have to wait so long - until you're a senior to (win). I've tried to win ever since I got here.
"So nobody's going to hear that speech from me."
He's mindful he doesn't have the same level of protection he has enjoyed in the past, and of the fact the new pro-style offense is predicated on establishing the run rather than the wide-open style he has become accustomed to throughout his career.
Operating in the spread offense last year, Schmitt threw for a career-high 2,644 yards and 15 touchdowns. He set two national records in Eastern Michigan's final two games, completing 58 passes against rival Central Michigan and throwing 76 pass attempts without an interception against Temple.
Against Army, the shortcomings of a team struggling to install a new offense at full speed were evident.
"Any time there's a transition, especially one that's that drastic, there may well be issues," first-year Eastern Michigan coach Ron English said. "But for us, that's no excuse. We've had a spring and a fall camp and it's a matter of execution and doing what we're supposed to do."
Schmitt now finds himself as the face of that operation, requiring balance. As a captain, Schmitt is expected to be one of the Eagles' emotional leaders. But as a quarterback - a position that requires a level head - Schmitt never allows himself to get carried away.
In the loss to Army, Schmitt was 18 for 31 for 183 yards, but intercepted twice. Over his career, Schmitt has thrown 10 more touchdown passes (32) than interceptions. He doesn't focus on his own statistics, finding satisfaction on helping his team improve.
"Playing quarterback, once a play is over, you've got to shake your head at what you did and you've got to pick your head back up and move on," Schmitt said. "If you keep thinking about the past, your future's not going to be too bright."
Schmitt, who is pursuing a degree in education, won't allow himself to think too much about his own future. He will student teach in the spring while considering his options as they relate to a possible future in professional football.
He often finds himself mentioned in the same breath as two other Mid-American Conference quarterbacks - Western Michigan's Tim Hiller and Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour - both whom are considered NFL prospects.
Any comparisons flatter Schmitt, but he won't allow any temptations to showcase his abilities for pro scouts overshadow his duties to lead his team for one more season.
"I'm really trying to shut (thoughts of pro football) out as much as I can and really focus on what we're doing right now," Schmitt said. "If my head starts going that way, I'm not focusing on what's important right now."
Jeff Arnold covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at 734-623-2554 or firstname.lastname@example.org