Central Valley State: Chapter 1

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Written in the mold of the Choose Your Adventure Series books many of us grew up on, Central Valley State is a look inside one season of a top-flight college football program. Each Chapter will end with a decision, that will be voted upon by the readers of Inside the Pylon.

David Remmers ignored the three voices behind him, shifted his weight, and continued staring out his office window.

Beyond the glass panel, and a mere pitching wedge away, was the field at Memorial Stadium, right in the heart of Central Valley State University’s campus. Only a few decades ago, the stadium was among the smallest in all of big-time college football, a mere shell of its former prominence. But then the school’s favorite son returned home, not to take snaps as a quarterback, but to lead the team as its coach. That was 13 years ago. Since then, much has changed on campus. Renovations to add thousands of new seats to Memorial Stadium, thanks in large part to multiple conference championships, and even two national championships. The prodigal son came home, and won.

But the pain and anguish of two-straight losing seasons was beginning to take a toll, most notable on Remmers’ face. The boyish good looks that were a hallmark of his time as a quarterback for the Bobcats, and later as he rose quickly through the coaching ranks, were gone. Replaced with wrinkles, dark circles under his eyes, and more grey hair than he ever imagined. The long wrinkle on the left side of his face? Remmers called that the “5-6 wrinkle,” referencing CVSU’s record two years ago. The one on the right side? Well, that’s what last year’s 4-7 record can do to a man.

“Coach, we need to make a decision.”

Remmers turned to face the three men standing in his office. The man who just posed that ultimatum was Jason Fabrizo, the team’s offensive coordinator and, if you believed the hundreds of radio show callers or posters on Bobcatden.com, the man who should be the school’s head coach in place of Remmers. Standing alongside Fabrizo were Henry Hauer, the quarterbacks coach, and Walter Douglas, the wide receivers coach. All three men looked frustrated, due in part to the shouting match they were engaged in as their boss simply stared out the window and ignored them.

Remmers moved from the window, sat down at his desk, leaned back and rubbed his hands through his hair and round the back of his head. “I know.”

Fabrizo continued. “Coach, I know you know this but we open our schedule in less than two weeks, on a neutral site, against the defending national champions. We need to install a game plan. We need to get our guys ready to play Texas Northwestern.

“We need to pick a quarterback.”

“I know, Jason. I know.”

Remmers shifted his weight again, leaning forward and clasping his hands together on the desk. He looked at his offensive coordinator. “Jason, we’re coming off two straight losing seasons. Half the people in this town want me fired. The other half want me dead. I know you’re close with Craig. I know you’ve coached him these past two years, and he’s your guy. But tell me again why we should keep running him out there given the results?”

Remmers was speaking of Craig Sayers, the rising senior quarterback and the starter for the Bobcats the past two seasons. He was your prototypical pocket-style passer, recruited by Remmers a few years ago when he was the number-three pro-style quarterback according to almost every single recruiting service. After serving as the school’s backup as a true freshman, he won the starting job as a sophomore. He performed well the past two years, but given the recent recruiting classes and shaky performance for the offense overall, the team was moving to a more diverse spread-based offensive scheme. Sayers might not be the best fit for that, which was only part of the dilemma.

“David, he can run the system. He’s athletic enough to give us what we need there, to keep DEs honest on the edges. He can pick up what we need with his legs. And he’s a better passer than Rogers.”

Hauer chimed in: “That’s not true Jason, it’s simply not true.”

Rogers was Jeffrey Rogers, the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the entire 2017 recruiting class. A true freshman who arrived on campus early and was already generating a lot of buzz in the media and among the boosters. Remmers started recruiting Rogers a few years ago, but as the Bobcats struggled on the field, he was convinced that he’d lose out on Rogers to another school. But Rogers was a local kid, weaned on football under the bright lights and success of Memorial Stadium. His final high school game, the state championship, was played on the other side of the glass in Remmers’ office. Despite the losing records, Rogers agreed to stay home.

Hauer continued. “Look, Jason. I’ve been working with this kid since the day he stepped foot on campus, and the ball just pops out of his hand with each throw. He ran an offense just like this in high school. He can run the show for us.”

“But it’s high school, with different terminology. And not against the defending national champions in front of a prime time audience!”

Remmers turned his gaze to his receivers coach. “Dougie, you’re with Hank. Tell me why Jason and I are wrong here.”

“Coach, Craig has been our leader through some tough times. But we’ve lost games under his leadership. He completed only 56% of his passes two years ago, and that dipped to 52% last year. He threw 11 interceptions last year. We can’t be turning the ball over like that. His completion percentage dipped to 49% on third downs. We can’t be giving the ball back to our opponents so often.”

“Dougie, you can’t just cite stats like that without context. You know firsthand the toll injuries took on our offense last year. And besides, that charting service we use said Craig had an adjusted completion percentage of over 60% last year, and over 55% on third downs. Drops killed him.” Fabrizo turned back to Remmers. “Besides, David, if you bench him you lose the locker room.”

Both Hauer and Douglas expressed immediate disagreement, but Fabrizo continued.

“He was voted a captain last year. He was our offseason workout leader. Look at how he tested. He added to his bench, his squat, and his clean. The rest of the guys look to him. They feed off of him. If you bench him you’re going to have a revolt on your hands.”

“Jason,” Remmers growled, “what does any of that matter if the guy can’t put the ball where it needs to be on third down?”

Hauer made his final plea. “Coach, again, nothing against Craig. But since Jeffery came in as an early enrollee he’s fit in just fine with the rest of the team. He played well in the spring game. He’s commanding the huddle as well as we could expect a true freshman to, especially when he gets run with the ones. The kid can play, and both Dougie and I believe he gives us the best shot to win every week, starting down in Dallas.”

Douglas simply nodded in agreement.

Remmer leaned back in his office chair. He looked at his offensive coordinator once again. “Any last thoughts Jason?”

“You know where I stand coach. Sayers is my guy. We can win with him. But the decision is yours.”

Follow @MarkSchofield on Twitter. Buy his book, 17 Drives. Check out his other work here, such as a self evaluation on scoutinga look back at the 2015 wide receiver class, or his collection of work on the 2017 Senior Bowl Quarterbacks.

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