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Western Wednesday: Terrell on the rise

The great programs of MAC West past and present had elite quarterbacks. Zach Terrell can and must be exactly that for Western to win a championship.

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*** Editor's note: welcome to Western Wednesdays. Our Bronco writers get pretty passionate about their teams, and want to do a weekly series to talk about some Western Michigan-related subjects. Enjoy!

To be blunt, Zach Terrell is the best quarterback in the MAC

For what it's worth, he made Sporting News top 25 quarterbacks for 2015 list. None of which will matter at season's end if the Western Michigan Broncos aren't sitting alone atop the MAC West. For this team, this program, to become elite, so too must Terrell.

The elite designation is a tired one in sport, especially for quarterbacks, but don't tell that to head coach P.J. Fleck, who you can't follow on twitter without seeing the phrase a time or five.

Becoming elite is an important focal point of the new Bronco program. In 2015, the emphasis is on the quarterback to make elite dreams a reality. Such emphasis is not unfounded. As far as MAC lore goes, the elite label is fitting for the likes of Jordan Lynch, Dan LeFevour and Chandler Harnish, and it's no coincidence that these three played for the only schools to win consecutive MAC West crowns since 2001-2002. Those great programs had their centerpiece. If Tim Hiller and Alex Carder were not the guys for the job at WMU, is Terrell? Could the junior from Fort Wayne, Indiana be the one to make WMU the first non-NIU MAC West champion in what seems like an eternity?

Quick Turnaround

He certainly will be if his past improvements are any indicator. Terrell showed sustained brilliance in 2014's dramatic improvement from an 11-loss season the previous year to eight wins and a trip to a bowl game. You could argue the turnaround had more to do with Terrell's performance than electrifying freshman, Jarvion Franklin's. Terrell improved his play  to the tune of 3,443 yards through the air to go along with 26 touchdowns. Compare that to just 1,602 yards and eight touchdowns the year previous, and Terrell's potential for 2015, if and when its reached, could very well catapult him into a conversation with the former MAC greats.

Frankly, numbers placing him in the company of LeFevour and Lynch may be a requirement for WMU to emerge victorious in DeKalb and Toledo to close the season. While losing a few close games to the current MAC apex predators in a "rebuilding" year can be forgiven, as was the case in 2014, the same leniency will not be applied by the fan base to a 2015 season with expectations suddenly through the roof.

Regardless of expectation, Terrell is fully capable of reaching great heights. After all, he seems to be improving at a rapid rate. The veteran quarterback is coming off of his first true full season as a Bronco starter, and that first full season designation is important. Here is a look in at Lynch and LeFevour's numbers in their second full seasons as starters compared to Terrell's first full season:

Player Year Games Comp. Att. % Yards Y/A TD INT Efficiency
J. Lynch 2013 14 253 404 62.6 2892 7.2 24 8 138.4
D. LeFevour 2007 14 355 543 65.4 3652 6.7 27 13 133.5
Z. Terrell 2014 13 250 368 67.9 3443 9.4 26 10 164.4

LeFevour and Lynch had their most productive years as starters in their second full seasons at the helm. 2007, for instance, yielded a MAC championship to the Chippewas. The 2013 season for Lynch is notable not only as his second full season under center, but as the season in which Lynch was invited to New York for the Heisman trophy voting.

The one thing missing from Terrell's game? He's not much of a runner.

Terrell does not lack at all for production through the air when compared to the recent greats, but the ability to run effectively made LeFevour and and Lynch household names for those that love to root for the underdogs, the BCS busters and the Montreal Alouettes. Does the lack of such a dynamic in Terrell's game doom the Broncos to just sit on the doorstep with Toledo for the next two years?

Not exactly

Terrell was viewed as a dual threat quarterback when he was recruited by WMU, although dual-threat is not a phrase I, personally, would use to describe a quarterback that logged just 264 yards rushing on 78 attempts last season. It is, however, a designation I would give to a high school senior that rushed for over 700 yards from the quarterback position, which Terrell did. Sure, he will never be LeFevour or Lynch on the ground, but the potential is there to be effective if need-be.

Except he doesn't need to be. With Franklin and company handling the rushing duties at a high level, there will be next to zero dependence on the quarterback to carry the load on the ground, even in a tight game. Terrell's effectiveness on the ground will be measured by his ability to avoid coverage sacks and salvage broken plays. Beyond that, his continued ascent to his peak performance will be measured through the air. Passing the football there's none better in the MAC right now, and WMU fans should feel confident going forward that they have yet to see the best of their quarterback.

Just another challenge

Propelling a still young program to great heights is just another challenge bestowed upon the unlikely career of Terrell. A quarterback who, according to some publications, carried a two star or less rating coming out of high school is now starting for a team that some believe has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. When challenged to enter a rain soaked game on the road against a Michigan State defense that would prove to be one of the best in the country, Terrell answered the call, throwing a touchdown pass on his first ever play from scrimmage. When challenged to provide leadership for a young team that desperately needed it, he did so. When challenged by his coach to complete 70 percent of his passes after throwing for 53 percent the year prior, he completed 67.9. Okay, you can't win them all, and the same goes for games in 2015 with Ohio State and Michigan State on the schedule, but if challenged to win the other 10 and get to Ford Field, Bronco fans should expect nothing less than that from number 11.