October 18, 2012

QB, AJ Schurr focused on the present

The natural leap to make is Army football fans saw a glimpse of the future when freshman quarterback A.J. Schurr entered last week's Kent State loss and guided the Black Knights to a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive he finished with a 6-yard scoring toss to wide receiver Patrick Laird r.
 
But don't mention that yet around Schurr, the 6-0, 185-pound freshman from Libertyville (Ill.) High by way of the USMA prep school.
 
Army's 1-5 record in a season that started with the Black Knights believing they could compete for a bowl bid hasn't demoralized them. The younger players haven't turned the page to 2013.
 
"We're still confident in ourselves and we're still confident about this season," Schurr said in his conversation with GoBlackKnights.com. "If a couple of things had gone our way, we could have won the Northern Illinois game or the Wake Forest game. It's not like we've been absolutely beaten in all five of our losses."
 
"As far as the future, you don't want to look ahead. You want to stay in the moment and only look at the game that's coming up. All that matters is this week's game. Navy, Air Force, Ball State … those games don't matter this week."
 
Similarly, Schurr says the disappointing start hasn't dimmed the optimism surrounding Army's recent recruiting classes that have been more highly touted than the players who comprise the seniors and juniors on the 2012 roster.
 
"The guys who aren't seniors and who are coming back are confident in what can be done," Schurr said. "But at the same time we have to put that on the back burner. We have to stay in the moment."
 
As far as the moment he mentions, the season's seventh game has seen Schurr move up to No. 2 on the depth chart for the second straight week behind senior fourth-year starter Trent Steelman. Schurr and sophomore Angel Santiago had been listed as "or" the previous two games. Santiago had been listed No. 2 to start the season and had entered the game briefly at Wake Forest when Steelman was sidelined late with a rib injury.
 
Army coach Rich Ellerson said this week Schurr was overdue to get some playing time.
 
"I felt like there had been opportunities for A.J. to play," Ellerson said. "Frankly, those situations where your quarterback has taken enough shots and you're more than two possessions out of it, he needs to play. We had a couple of those opportunities in the past and we didn't put him out there."
 
"We can all see there's a reason we're excited about A.J. The guy really has some upside, and there's no substitute for actually going into a game environment and running stuff."
 
Schurr will second that opinion. His varsity debut was a week earlier against Boston College when Steelman had the wind knocked out of him. He came in for one play but was only asked to hand off the ball before Steelman returned.
 
The Illinois native said one play helped with "the butterflies" when he entered the Kent State game, but not with his first pass, running the huddle and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
 
"I was happy with the way I handled the speed of the game," he adds. "But my first pass was probably one of the worst passes I've ever thrown. There's no substitute for that first hit and throwing that first pass."
 
The Black Knights were trailing 31-10 when Schurr entered the game with 6:34 to play.

Despite the incomplete pass on first-and-10 from the Army 25, Schurr got the offense moving with five first downs on the 12-play, 75-yard drive. Wide receiver Patrick Laird caught his first career touchdown pass on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line.

On the second possession, Schurr led the Black Knights to three first downs to midfield before time expired.

Now that Schurr feels he's erased any doubts in the back of his mind he can play at this level, he says his focus is on learning game management. He explained he recognized defenses at the line of scrimmage, but he didn't always communicate to his teammates the audible or changes.
 
"I might see something and I know what adjustment I have to make, but I have to be able to relay that so every guy knows what he's doing," Schurr said. "On one play I got it communicated to 10 guys but not to one guy."
 
Schurr finished the game completing 5 of 11 passes for 66 yards with the one touchdown and no interceptions. He also carried four times for 21 yards.
 
The triple-option offense was new to Schurr last year at the prep school, but he picked it up quickly. Reading options weren't foreign to him since in high school he ran a spread offense and a veer offense.
 
Steelman has been a record-setting quarterback with the most yards rushing and rushing touchdowns scored by an Army quarterback, but Schurr brings a better arm that can add a dimension to the offense. With Schurr throwing for 66 yards in two series and Steelman throwing for 66 yards, Army's combined 132 passing yards was the most for the Black Knights since 2010.
 
Sophomore wide receiver Chevaughn Lawrence set a career high with six catches for 88 yards that was the most productive by an Army receiver since Ali Villanueva caught seven balls for 119 yards against VMI in 2009. Laird, in addition to his TD reception, finished with two catches for 10 yards.
 
But Schurr says the future to him is improving his game each practice until the Black Knights need him - whether that's this season or next year.
 
"My role is to keep showing up to practice every day," Schurr said. "It sounds funny, but my job is to push Trent for the starting job. It's his team and his offense, but if I work to surpass him, I'll get better and he'll get better. And if I'm called upon again I'll be ready."

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