Angel Santiago was simply the best Army quarterback during training camp, coach Rich Ellerson said.
That’s why Ellerson tabbed Santiago, a junior, over sophomore A.J. Schurr Wednesday as the Black Knights’ starter for their season opener against Morgan State on August 30 at Michie Stadium.
“Clearly, he’s (Santiago) had the better preseason,” Ellerson said. “He came out of spring ball a little bit behind, but as I said then it was very competitive and certainly not decided. He‘s had the better training camp. That’s pretty clear. That’s not to say when we start playing we are going to believe what we see when we get going. We still obviously think an awful lot of A.J. A.J. has a role.”
How did Santiago find out the news?
“In the middle of practice, (Coach Ellerson) pretty much said, ‘You are the starting quarterback, take charge,’” said Santiago, who started one game as a freshman and played in two games as a sophomore.
Santiago said falling to third string behind four-year starter Trent Steelman and Schurr last season motivated him to work as hard as he could to win the starting job. Santiago is a more confident quarterback and his knowledge of the offense and passing have improved.
“Once we started working out in the offseason, that’s when things turned on for me and got really hot,” Santiago said… “After all the hard work that I did put in, I thought it definitely carried over and now I’m more focused on getting the timing down and being fundamentally sound as an unit. Once we hit that, come nine days (against Morgan State), we are going to hit the ground running.”
Ball security was a big factor in Ellerson’s decision. The Black Knights lost 20 fumbles last season. Ellerson said Santiago, “hasn’t had the ball on the ground much at all.”
While Schurr, who played in five games last season, “has had more of those moments when he’s just been un-A.J.-like,” Ellerson said.
“Where he’s been pressing a little bit maybe trying to be too creative and the ball has been out of his hands,” Ellerson said. “I felt like coming out of his summer he wasn’t quite as fresh coming into training camp. There might have been a little wear and tear there. Maybe that forces him to press a little bit and got him a little bit behind. I think he throws the ball well but I think he’s missed some. Angel has just made better decisions with the throwing game as well.”
Ellerson left the door open for more competition during the season, saying, “ There’s a lot more of this story to come. That’s where it is today.”
No doubt, Schurr will prepare like he’s the starter. He was ready to play as a freshman last season and showed promise.
Schurr led Army to a touchdown on his opening drive in two of his first three games. Ellerson left Schurr in the game over Steelman, a four-year starter, late in the fourth quarter against Eastern Michigan after Army had cut a lead 48-38 and recovered an onside kick with 2:09 remaining.
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