There are more direct routes to Cheney, Wa. than detouring through Dallas. Yet, such is the path two quarterbacks have taken to Eastern Washington’s Inferno.
Kyle Padron declared his intention to enroll at EWU this summer, in an interview with The Spokesman-Review last week. Padron led SMU to bowl appearances in 2009 (Hawai’i) and again in 2010 (Armed Forces), the Mustangs’ first since being handed the death penalty.
Padron is an interesting case study in both sides of the fickle nature of the game, however. For Padron to assume the reins in 2009, Bo Levi Mitchell had to be benched. Mitchell was coming off a debut season with 24 touchdowns and over 2800 yards, but his struggles the following season opened the door for Padron.
Padron’s season-and-a-half as starter produced nearly 5800 yards passing and 41 touchdowns, and the most prolific season for a Mustang quarterback in program history. A herniated disc in his back relegated Padron to the sidelines, and reserve J.J. McDermott flourished in much the same way Padron had in Mitchell’s stead.
There’s undeniable irony in Padron following the same career arc as his SMU predecessor Mitchell — who is now his EWU predecessor. Mitchell’s transfer to play under Beau Baldwin yielded special things. The Eagles were the 2010 season’s FCS national champions, and last season Mitchell received the Walter Payton Award as the subdivision’s top offensive player.
Padron had not lost his starting job to McDermott for good — a transfer in his own right, McDermott had exhausted his eligibility after two years at New Mexico State before coming to SMU. However, the arrival of five star prep recruit and one-time heir apparent to Colt McCoy Garrett Gilbert from Texas complicated Padron’s return to the first string.
Baldwin’s quarterback-friendly system is welcoming to Padron’s skill set. When Mitchell took over, Matt Nichols was hot off rewritten the Eagle record books. Mitchell converted seamlessly from a similarly high tempo offense under June Jones. Padron and Mitchell aren’t the same player, but their circumstances are so remarkably similar that the comparisons have to be made.
Furthermore, the presence of All-America wide receiver Nicholas Edwards doesn’t hurt Padron’s chances to successful succeed Mitchell for a second time.
The particulars of Padron’s transfer are unique, but his move from FBS to FCS is not. FCS programs offer refuge to players who need a fresh start. Mitchell and Padron are like countless players before them, seeking an opportunity to contribute. When Mitchell led EWU to the January 2011 FCS championship game, there waiting was former Penn State quarterback Pat Devlin with the Delaware Blue Hens.
Ronnie Fouch carried the dubious distinction of quarterbacking Washington in its winless 2008 season. In an ironic twist, he transferred to a program that in 2009, snapped a nearly three-year winless streak. All Fouch did at Indiana State was lead the Sycamores to a winning record and bring them to the brink of a postseason bid under former UW assistant Trent Miles.
Others pursue a clean slate from off-field transgressions. Oft-troubled at LSU, Ryan Perrilloux reinvented himself at Jacksonville State. JSU head coach Jack Crowe has offered a similar opportunity to Georgia back Washaun Ealey, who made good as one of the subdivision’s top rushers.
Ealey returns to JSU and figures to be a Payton Award contender. Among his competition will be Stony Brook’s Miguel Maysonet, and Maysonet’s new backfield mate. Marcus Coker transferred to Stony Brook from Iowa off a 1633-yard campaign, and joins a defending Big South champion that took national runner-up Sam Houston State to the brink in this past Playoffs’ second round.
Stony Brook ranked No. 7 in 2010 and No. 4 last season rushing the football. Splitting carries should be no problem for Chuck Priore; the Seawolves offense allowed Maysonet and Brock Jackolski to both finish in the top 10 among all FCS rushers.
Beyond the opportunities Coker will have on the field, Stony Brook presents a fresh start from the troubles that led to his suspension from the Insight Bowl.