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Published: Wednesday, 9/26/2007

Nothing fazes Falcons' Sheehan, except quarterback comparisons

BOWLING GREEN - Go on the road to face a Big Ten opponent, throw for 388 yards and two touchdowns, and thread a two-point conversion pass through about a two-inch hole to a tight corner of the end zone for the game-winning points in overtime in your first start as a college quarterback?

No problem.

Stand in against a blitzing linebacker, knowing you're going to get smashed to the ground, maybe pulverized into one of those tiny rubber particles that cushion the new FieldTurf at Doyt Perry Stadium, just to buy a crucial second or two for your receiver to break coverage and find a lane to the end zone in your first home start at quarterback?

Mere child's play.

Not much bothers Tyler Sheehan. Not spiders, not defensive linemen, not 50,000 hostile fans, not famine nor pestilence.

BGSU quarterback Tyler Sheehan gets hit by a Temple defender on this play, but in three games he has completed 96 of 148 passes for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns.
BGSU quarterback Tyler Sheehan gets hit by a Temple defender on this play, but in three games he has completed 96 of 148 passes for 1,034 yards and seven touchdowns.
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But if you want to make the Bowling Green State University sophomore squirm, just start comparing him to Omar Jacobs and Josh Harris.

They are the recent standards of greatness at quarterback for the Falcons. Jacobs had the most prolific season in BG history in 2004 when he passed for 4,002 yards and 41 touchdowns. Before him, Harris accounted for an all-time best 9,976 career yards of total offense. Over a four-year period, with one or the other as the starting quarterback, the Ay Ziggys zoomed to a 35-14 record.

Sheehan's career as BG's starter is three games old. He's a mere infant, by comparison, and has the baby face to prove it. But in those three games he has completed 96 of 148 attempts for 1,034 yards. Multiply those numbers by four to project a full season and he would set school records in each category.

All this from a guy who made four appearances in relief during the '06 season and did absolutely nothing - 23 of 43, 192 yards, 0 touchdowns, 4 interceptions - to hint of what was to come.

In fact, when coach Gregg Brandon announced prior to BG's 2007 opener at Minnesota that Sheehan, and not returning starter Anthony Turner, would get the nod, most outsiders figured the Falcons were in for another rebuilding year at quarterback, a continued youth movement and, most likely, another tough stretch like last year's 4-8 mark.

Instead, the Falcons now look like the team to beat in the MAC East Division.

"That decision might have surprised some people," Brandon conceded. "But it didn't surprise our coaches and our players, and that's really the only people who matter. The only thing that has surprised anybody is that Tyler has picked [the offense] up this quickly. Omar had been in the system a couple years before he put up big numbers. It took Josh a while, too.

"But Tyler is just a great student of the game. He's like a gym rat in the film room. We knew for sure he had the arm for what we wanted to do, but he has been so poised. He can scramble, throw and complete, and that's hard for a defense to cover. But he's still a young quarterback. He's still learning. He's going to get even better."

That should be a scary thought for BG's future opponents. Heck, the 19-year-old Sheehan is good enough now that the Falcons have all but abandoned the run, attempting two passes for every one rush, during the first three games.

Sheehan, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Cincinnati, admits he was a "deer in the headlights" last season, but oozes with confidence now.

Until, of course, the conversation drifts to the high standards set by recent BG quarterbacks.

"Being mentioned with those guys, with Josh and Omar, would be an honor," Sheehan said. "But, geez, it's way too early for that. We're off to a pretty good start, but it's just the first quarter of the season. I don't know if it's realistic or not, but I don't see myself in that kind of comparison. I'm just playing football and having fun."

The two go hand-in-hand for a BG quarterback in the offensive system installed seven seasons ago by current Florida coach Urban Meyer and Brandon, who came to Wood County as Meyer's assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. It's a video-game offense with all the bells and whistles. When it's done right, that is.

That wasn't the case a year ago, due mostly to inexperience and a forced reliance on the ground game. But Sheehan has made tremendous strides and the two quarterbacks who got most of the playing time in '06 are being utilized in other areas - Freddie Barnes has a team-high 23 catches for more than 90 yards per game and Turner, always a great threat as a runner, has 10 carries for 62 net yards.

BG's quarterbacks combined for a .562 completion percentage and barely 2,000 yards last season. That won't cut it in Brandon's system.

"The thing I always stress with quarterbacks is accuracy," BG's coach said. "We need 66 percent. If we're throwing it 50 times a game, we have to complete 32 or 33 or we're not being productive."

Sheehan's completion percentage is .649, which is pretty close and darn productive.

"The coaches have made it easy," Sheehan said. "I feel so prepared and so comfortable. I'm just trying to do the things I do best and try to keep making the team better. I had to prove I was the guy who could lead them. Now we have big goals in the MAC. I want a ring."

Ultimately, Brandon and Sheehan both know that's how a quarterback is remembered. Forget the yards, forget the percentages. Just count up the jewelry.



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