A year ago, the Pacific Lutheran University coaching staff was anxious.
Dalton Richey was ready to complete his magnificent three-year run as the starting quarterback for the Lutes. Jon Schaub was patiently waiting behind him for a shot to be the next guy.
After that? Nobody knew.
They have a better idea now, even if it’s been a trying season for coach Scott Westering, offensive coordinator Trevor Roberts and the rest of the offensive staff.
Because of injuries, the Lutes have used three quarterbacks — Schaub, Cole Chandler and Walker LaVoy. That’s hurt their short-term prospects — the Lutes aren’t going to the postseason this season, and they finish up Saturday hosting second-ranked Linfield — but helped long-term.
“We know we have three very solid quarterbacks — and leaders — and that will be huge for us,” Roberts said.
Schaub, a junior, started the first five games, playing nearly 300 snaps. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first half against Whitworth on Oct. 17.
Chandler, a talented freshman from Silverton, Oregon, came on in relief in that game, then started the next two games including winning his first career start against George Fox. He started again against cross-town rival Puget Sound, but hurt his throwing shoulder in the first half.
On came freshman Walker LaVoy, from Big Timber, Montana, to finish up. LaVoy then won his first career start last week at Lewis & Clark.
So how does that set up for the future? Westering isn’t so sure.
“It can go a variety of ways,” Westering said, “depending on who is driving the race car.”
Logic — and skill set — would likely put it in this order heading into the offseason: Chandler, Schaub, LaVoy.
▪ Originally, Chandler — who led Silverton to the Class 5A state title game as a senior — had given Linfield an oral commitment out of high school, but reconsidered when teammate Logan Munson, a wide receiver, chose the Lutes.
Also, Chandler’s twin sister, McKenna, was headed to PLU as well.
It didn’t take long for Chandler to grab the backup spot in fall camp, beating out former Graham-Kapowsin standout Trevor Asbjornsen, who has since left the program.
Chandler can make all the throws a passer is expected to with zip and touch. And it is plainly obvious he has an innate sense how to play the position.
What was a revelation was his mobility, Roberts said.
“Cole ran an under-center split-back offense in high school. He was not a runaround guy,” Roberts said. “But when he had our intra-squad game, when he felt pressure, he took off and ran — and it was like, ‘Whoa, he runs like a deer, he is that fluid.’ It was pretty exciting.”
▪ PLU coaches knew very little about LaVoy until late last spring. Every year, the Lutes send out recruiting letters to 15 seniors out of Montana, said recruiting coordinator Jud Keim.
“We never get anybody from there,” Keim said.
LaVoy comes from Sweet Grass County High School, a small school that competes at the Class B level. Its nickname is the Sheepherders.
He finally visited campus in June, and committed on the spot. He never met Westering until the start of fall camp and was running the scout-team offense when the season began.
No quarterback has made more of a surprising impression than LaVoy throughout the course of the eight games. He can throw the football 50 yards on a rope, reads defenses well and might be a tad faster in the speed-option game than Chandler.
“He has been a pleasant surprise,” Westering said. “We did not anticipate him seeing the field at all this year.”
Assuming Chandler and LaVoy are the future at the position at PLU, Roberts expects the read-option facet of the offense utilized during the Richey tenure will again be a staple of the offense in 2016.
▪ Schaub, out of Sprague High School in Salem, Oregon, is a wild card.
Much of his role will depend on how quickly he returns to full health. He has not even had surgery to repair ligaments in his knee.
Before his injury, Schaub — a drop back passer — threw for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns.
“We are really happy with our (quarterback) situation,” Roberts said. “It will be interesting to see where Jon is after his surgery, which will certainly impact his ability to get back on the field.”