If college football coaches are anything they’re persuasive. First-year Western Michigan University coach P.J. Fleck spoke to Sturgis senior quarterback and Broncos verbal commit Chance Stewart recently to express how badly the program wants the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder on campus for spring practices.
Just five weeks ago, Stewart dismissed the idea of enrolling early.
“If I wasn’t going to play basketball I was going to leave early,” Stewart said in mid-August. “We had a big family talk about it, wrote down the pros and cons. When it came down to it, there was still some stuff I wanted to accomplish in basketball and on the baseball field. We have a chance to win four straight district titles in basketball, and that’s something I really want to do.”
Broncos (0-4) senior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen runs out of eligibility at the end of this season. Western has redshirt freshmen Jason Meichtry and Zach Terrell, freshman Cameron Thomas and junior Zack Wynn back in 2014. Stewart is currently the only QB in the next crop of recruits for WMU.
Thursday morning, a week or so after sending his transcript to Western per Fleck’s request, Stewart said graduating early is now a very real possibility. He’s not revealing which way he’s leaning before talking to Trojans basketball coach Keith Kurowski. But Stewart did indicate it’s about a 60-40 proposition way or the other.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a thought right now,” he said in a text message to JoeInsider.com.
That Western is pushing so hard does imply Stewart has an excellent opportunity to start for the Broncos as a freshman.
“He told me [about] that conversation that happened with Coach Fleck, and I said, ‘What are you going to do?’” Sturgis coach Jimmy Lamb said late Wednesday night. “He didn’t really answer. One of the things I asked him when he committed to Western was, ‘You’re going to go up early, right?’ I’m like, ‘Man, you should go up early. It’s extra reps and a chance to pick up their system.’
“If they’re going to start him as a true freshman, to me it makes perfect sense to go up there.”
It’s a difficult decision for any high school senior — one that pits a longtime goal, and better positioning at the next level, versus enjoying the final months with friends and teammates. Stewart’s posts on social media about coaching the senior powder puff squad is one example of how much he’s soaking in his final year.
“If he does go early, enjoy it while it’s here and then move on,” Lamb said.
The 15 extra college practices are invaluable to early enrollees. They’re typically miles ahead of the rest of the incoming freshmen when fall camp begins. It’s even more useful for quarterbacks, which have to get used to a new system, terminology and increased pace of both their receiving targets and defenders.
“[Western is] doing similar things we’re doing,” Lamb said. “It’s not like it would be a totally brand new system. The terminology will be different. The bigger thing with [Stewart] would be more checks, I’d imagine, in Coach [Kirk] Ciarrocca’s offense. We kind of do that right now; he does make some of his own checks. I think it would help him tremendously.”
It’s not yet clear what all Stewart would have to square away academically in order to enroll at WMU in January.