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March 15, 2012

Spring practice Two-a-Days: Quarterbacks

The quarterback situation at Western Michigan is one that would be envied by many at higher-level programs, to say nothing of the rest of the MAC. Certainly the Mid-American Conference has its share of fine quarterbacks returning for 2012, something the conference has become known for nationally, but few if any can match the two-deep returning for head coach Bill Cubit and Western Michigan.

Bill Cubit's specialty is developing quarterbacks to run his complex system, and senior Alex Carder has taken to this system like maybe no other quarterback in his tenure. Carder, who has NFL size at 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds, has a firm grasp on the starter's job, and looks right at home at the controls of Cubit's offense, which gives him a lot of freedom to run checks at the line based on his reads of the defense. Carder finished 2011 with a school record 3,873 yards, 31 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, despite missing the Akron game to injury. While some have suggested spring camp could be opened up for competition with Holland's Tyler VanTubbergen for this job, Cubit laid those thoughts to rest.

"Competition's always good," Cubit said. "Carder has earned that right [to be the number one], but we're really blessed to have those two guys."

When asked if Carder could sometimes improve on his decision making, Cubit had instead a lot of praise for the veteran.

"The only thing with Alex that concerns you is that guy is such a competitor, wants to win so much, that sometimes he gets a little jacked up, but I'd sure rather have that guy than a comatose guy who doesn't have any emotions and doesn't want to take a chance out there," Cubit said. "His strength sometimes becomes a weakness, but I thought he had a great year. I will say that his emotional level at times gets him self a little bit in trouble, and he'll tell you the exact same thing. I thought he did a better job this year."

Van Tubbergen will be a junior this year, and Cubit is on record as saying the 6-foot-4, 197 pounder has the strongest arm he's seen at WMU. He got a start in 2011 at home against Akron, and seized the moment to the tune of a 19-for-21 day with 252 yards and six touchdowns. It should of course be noted that Akron was an extremely weak team in 2011, but nonetheless the talent on display excited fans and showed why Van Tubbergen is the odds-on favorite to start in 2013.

"I've got a lot of respect for Tyler, I think he's a really good player. Tyler's earned the right where everybody feels good about him," Cubit said.

Outside of those two, there is little experience to be had. Mike Perish departed for Indiana State and more playing time, leaving 6-foot-2, 207 pound redshirt sophomore Zack Wynn third on the depth chart as well. Wynn is a good athlete with double threat ability, and did see the field in two blowout games last season. While he compiled an impressive high school career, Wynn arrived at a difficult time. Along with former prep school star Tyler Hrycak, Wynn will have to make the most of limited snaps in the spring as Cubit lamented the small number of reps to go around.

"Those two guys will get some of the number three reps, which is really not a lot," Cubit said. "We're really interested in getting Carder and Tyler getting used to the young wideouts. The problem's going to be that they're good players, but they're stuck behind two great players. It's just hard for them to get any better. If you don't take any reps as quarterbacks, you almost regress. They get to a point where, scheme-wise, they understand, but they're never working on the schemes. It's unfortunate."

New recruits Anthony Maddie and Zach Terrell, who excite Cubit, will arrive in the fall, and look to redshirt and compete for the job come 2014. BroncoBlitz will catch up with these players via Freshman Profiles in the coming months.

As for the spring, the key as laid out by Cubit will be Alex Carder and Tyler Van Tubbergen developing chemistry with the green wide receiving corps. This will be key as the Broncos look to replace their terrific senior receivers from 2011.

Later today, BroncoBlitz will take a look at these wide receivers and tight ends headed into spring practice in a premium piece.

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