Tyler Wiegers throws a pass during a spring practice for Eastern Michigan. (Photo credit: EMU Athletics)
Eastern Michigan’s offense is going to look really different this year, especially at quarterback. Now that Brogan Roback is graduated as the program’s all-time leading passer, a graduate transfer slides on in from Iowa with minimal in-game experience and is fighting for that
But he’s not discouraged by the lack of playing time at Iowa. Instead, Wiegers is treating it like he went on a four-year sabbatical.
“I don’t regret my time there,” Wiegers told MAC Prospectus. “I had a lot of fun, got a great degree, love my teammates and my coaches were awesome, but sometimes the chips don’t fall where you want them to.
“Even though I haven’t gotten a bunch of game experience over the past four years, I look at it as I’ve been learning football from a bunch of different coaches for the past four years. Schemes and terminologies might change a little bit, but I can still bring a bunch of knowledge about what I’ve learned about defenses and which throws I can attack with, where to be conservative, where to be aggressive. From that aspect, I feel like I’ve been preparing to get out on the field for the past four years, so I’m just trying to bring that experience I have to this new team, new system and try to apply it the best I can.”
Wiegers played in nine games at Iowa and threw six passes total. Out of high school (Lake Orion, Mich., Detroit Country Day), Wiegers was a highly-rated quarterback, especially in his state. By 247sports.com’s composite scoring, Wiegers (class of 2014) was the No. 6 high school recruit in his state and No. 24 in his position.
“Going to a Big Ten school, I knew there would be plenty of competition and I sat behind Jake Rudock and CJ Beathard,” Wiegers said. “I knew they were great quarterbacks — obviously, they’re both in the NFL right now. I had kind of a setback in fall camp. I thought I did a good job of getting back in it and fighting for the starting job and it went all the way down to the wire, right before the season, and sometimes it just doesn’t go the way you planned out.”
Wiegers was beat out for the starting position by Nate Stanley last year and as the season was closing up, he told his coaches at Iowa that he was considering leaving the program as a graduate student. With their support, he sent out his release after the season ended and he made sure schools in the Mid-American Conference were in the know. As someone who grew up in the Midwest that was being recruited by some of these schools, he already had a feel for the conference, and learned even more after high school. EMU came calling the next day.
EMU offensive coordinator Aaron Keen was the one who reached out to Wiegers and worked to get the quarterback on campus for a visit.
“It was really exciting when it all came together,” Wiegers said. “Knowing I’d only be an hour away from home. I’ve been able to see my family so much more than I would’ve in the past winter semesters. My little brother actually goes to (the University of Michigan), so he’s like 10 minutes away from me. I get to hangout with him all the time and it’s been great.”
When Wiegers’ news dropped in early January that he was already enrolled in classes and would be in another quarterback battle, this time against redshirt-junior Isaac Stiebeling, who appeared in two games last season. Wiegers’ first month in green was difficult in terms of just figuring out the language barriers from playbook to playbook, but he now has a good grasp of what’s expected out of him in EMU’s offense.
Wiegers added that he’s played in similar offenses before, so he already understood EMU’s concepts and the vernacular part of his learning curve isn’t too steep. Plus, he’s got the arm and the confidence to put it all together.
Saturday’s spring game at Rynearson Stadium was a good opportunity for Wiegers to showcase his ability in front of congregated fans and recruits. It was also another opportunity for the grad transfer to try and be named the starting quarterback over Stiebeling.
After a three-and-out in his first drive behind center, Wiegers hooked up with junior receiver Mathew Sexton on a couple of plays, including a 33-yard touchdown pass. On the play, Wiegers pump-faked all-conference defensive end Maxx Crosby out of position and threw it right on the money for the score. Clearly, he’s done this before.
Wiegers finished his spring game performance 10 of 14 passing for 135 yards and a touchdown with Sexton being a hot target for him. Stiebeling went to junior college transfer Line Latu a lot, including a 25-yard screen pass for a touchdown to cap off a 95-yard drive, and finished the day 8 of 17 passing for 101 yards.
Latu also had a second touchdown reception near the end of the spring game via a 40-yard throw by redshirt-freshman quarterback Preston Hutchinson.
EMU head coach Chris Creighton hinted that he’s going to let this situation marinate for a while before he makes a decision as to who will be the starting quarterback this year and he’ll get a better idea as to where everybody’s at in the summer when he’s able to get all of his players on campus.
“I definitely don’t think he’s confused at all with our offense or what we want,” Creighton said of Wiegers. “He’s really bright. I’m just impressed with him coming in in January with how quickly he’s picked things up. He was out there making checks today and getting us in the right play… I don’t care how long you’ve done it in a different scheme and all that, it takes time to learn a new foreign language and to be able to do that, so it’s been impressive. He’s not confused at all.”