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Shepherd's Lazear gets his turn at the controls

August 24, 2007|By BOB PARASILITI

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - If you think about it, Tyler Lazear was born to be a Shepherd University Ram.

He tries hard to be successful. He doesn't mind if things get woolly. And he admittedly doesn't mind if he has to butt heads.

And, oh yeah, there's one more thing. Lazear stands atop of Shepherd's mountain as he finally gets his chance to take control of the Rams' offense as starting quarterback.

After two years of waiting his turn and some struggles dealing with coaching authority and the need to be patient, Lazear has the job he dreamed of for so long.

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"It's been a roller coaster, obviously," the junior said. "Everything is great now. I've been waiting. I thought I would be starting before now, but last year I spent the time preparing to start. This year, I have the opportunity to do it."

Lazear got antsy while accepting the time-honored method of becoming a starting quarterback. That is, come in as a freshman, learn the system and wait until your junior year before you get handed the keys to the offense.

He wasn't used to that. Nor was Lazear used to change.

"When I first got here, my first (quarterbacks) coach left and it changed to Coach (Joel) Gordon," Lazear said. "We butted heads some in the beginning. I had a different relationship with my first coach. Now with Coach Gordon here, it has been a change for the better. He knows more about football than anyone else I know."

Gordon was a great choice to get Lazear ready for his position.

After all, Gordon is just five years removed from becoming Shepherd's all-time leader in passing yards (7,236), touchdowns (66), completions (522) and pass attempts (977).

"I'm a little hard-headed," Lazear said.

Lazear had an untraditional move into the starting role. He spent most of the last two seasons behind Dan Chlebowski, who led the Rams to the last two of their three consecutive West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles - both with undefeated regular-season records - and two NCAA Division II playoff appearances.

Lazear played in eight of those games, hitting 50 of 87 passes for 522 yards and six touchdowns. He was used heavily in Shepherd's two playoff games last year after Chlebowski was injured in the first round against Merrimack. He hit on 20 of 40 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns.

Now, it's Lazear's job from the first snap and the view is much better sitting at the top of the heap.

"It's so much easier now," said the 6-foot, 197-pound graduate of Walt Whitman High in Bethesda, Md. "I feel like I'm more in my element. I'm not coming off the bench now. When I was doing that, you keep looking over your shoulder when you make mistakes. Now, I'm not nervous."

Lazear has a stocked shelf of weapons to work with to ease any nerves he may have. It starts with running back Dervon Wallace, who has scored 45 touchdowns in the last two seasons and is strengthened with a veteran receiving corps led by Mark Springirth and Craig Tremel, who combined for 720 yards receiving and seven touchdowns last year.

"My best talent is I can make something happen with my legs and throw on the run when something breaks down," Lazear said. "I'm more mobile than Dan, but Dan was a great game manager. Most of my work will come on recognizing defenses. We have all the weapons we need. The key for me is not to have any turnovers. My job is to protect the ball."

And now that Lazear is the king of Shepherd's offensive mountain, he says he is anxious to take in the view.

"It's frustrating now," he said. "I can't wait to get on the field. Right now, I'm getting tired of playing against our defense. I can't wait for school to start so we can start preparing for Millersville and see what we need to do."

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