Plethora of pivots chasing Mustang job

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Former Western quarterback Chris Hessel spent his summer exploring the cramped confines of arena league football.

Conversely, Acton native Michael Faulds, one of Hessel's potential Mustang replacements, tried to wrap his head around the vast space on which the Canadian university gridiron game operates.

To a passer, it's the difference between playing on a postage stamp and a pasture.

"That's been the biggest thing to get used to again -- trying to deal with the bigger field and the extra man out there," said Faulds, the 21-year-old University of Toledo transfer student who is competing with five other men this week at Western's training camp for the right to throw the pigskin to Andy Fantuz and friends this season. "The field in U.S. college is smaller and they don't have the 12th man out there."

Faulds spent the past year and a half at Toledo and was on the sideline last season when the Rockets won the Mid-American Conference championship over Miami of Ohio, then lost the Motor City Bowl to Connecticut -- both at Ford Field in Detroit.

"I was the guy who signalled in the plays from the sideline," Faulds said with a grin.

The allure of challenging for the No. 1 job and the chance to be roommates with his old high school chum D.J. Bennett, one of Western's talented running backs, beckoned him back to this side of the border.

"I always said if I didn't end up in the States, I wanted to go to Western because it's the closest thing there is to an American-style program," Faulds said. "This (TD Waterhouse Stadium) is the best facility in the country and the support from the alumni is second to none."

There's no doubt he's a winner and a quick learner eager to step into a new role. After a teacher strike threatened his senior season at Guelph's John F. Ross high school, Faulds transferred to St. Andrew's College in Aurora and he and Bennett helped the undefeated Saints win the Metro Bowl in 2001.

But he isn't being anointed the Mustangs starter.

Six-foot-five returnee Lucas Garby and five-foot-10 veteran Mark Howard know the Western offence better than any of the other pivots and have taken game snaps for the Mustangs in the past behind Hessel.

Despite being only 19 years old, Lucas grad Hayden Marks makes up for his age with his on-field maturity and has the size and ability to be a first-class university starter.

"In high school, you're the man and then you get here and it's back to square one," Marks said yesterday. "It's different. There's a lot thrown at you very quickly and you have to react to it. As a quarterback, you have to go in thinking you're going to have the job. It's going to be interesting. There are a lot of good quarterbacks here."

Guys such as Anthony Adderley, a wonderful athlete with a cannon arm, and Joe Vanasseldonk are in the mix, too.

"I think it's great there's competition with six good quarterbacks here fighting for the job. It only helps the team," Faulds said. "If you go in with the idea you're No. 1, you're not going to work as hard as possible to get better."

Western quarterback coach and offensive co-ordinator Steve Samways wants one of the six in camp to grab the job as soon as possible.

"Ideally, you want to be able to identify your No. 1 guy early because you don't want him missing out on a lot of the (practice) reps," the former Mustangs star passer said.

"We really don't know who the starter is going to be yet. I don't remember us having this many quarterbacks testing this well before in one camp. We're looking for the same things we always do -- leadership is key and the ability to lead our offence down the field."


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