Tafralis showing way in San Jose
Appeal Sports Writer
When you talk about quarterbacks in the Western Athletic Conference these days, the conversation usually turns to guys like Hawai’i’s Colt Brennan, New Mexico State’s Chase Holbrook and Boise State’s Jared Zabransky.
The trio certainly deserves any accolades they receive, especially when you consider Zabransky quarterbacks one of the best teams in the nation, and Holbrook and Brennan guide teams that are 1-2 in the nation in passing.
San Jose State’s Adam Tafralis seems to be the WAC’s forgotten man despite some impressive stats in leading the Spartans to a 4-1 record entering Saturday’s game at Mackay Stadium against 3-3 Nevada.
Tafralis has completed 94 of 131 passes for 1,071 yards and eight scores. He has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes this season, a far cry from 2005 when he completed less than 50 percent of his throws. He’s thrown a TD pass in four of San Jose State’s five games, including a three-touchdown effort in the win over San Diego State and a three-touchdown effort in a six-point loss at Washington.
Spartan coach Dick Tomey has raved about Tafralis’ improvement, lauding his ability to take care of the ball and the way he has led the team. He’s thrown just four interceptions this year in 131 attempts compared to 10 in 286 throws last year. The Spartans are averaging nearly 50 yards a game more through the air this year compared to 2005.
“I think Marcus Arroyo (quarterbacks coach) has done a great job with him,” Tomey said. “He simplified some of the things he was asking him to do. The competition with Sean Flynn helped him raise his level of play.”
Tomey was referring to the fall camp battle between Tafralis and Flynn, a JC transfer. Flynn had a slight lead until he injured his groin, and was redshirted by the Spartans.
“Sure it did; for Sean as well,” Tafralis said during a conference call with Northern Nevada reporters. “I definitely wanted to come back and play with the guys that I’ve played for four years with.”
Tafralis has taken advantage of his opportunity. He’s lighter, more mobile and more efficient this season. He certainly won’t relinquish this job without a fight.
“They’ve made it (the offense) a little bit simpler,” Tafralis said. “I have another year under my belt. Talk to anybody, that’s always a beneficial thing. Coaches assessed what worked and what didn’t work last year. We’re trying to put the ball in our playmaker’s hands.”
Utah State coach Brent Guy said he noticed the difference in Tafralis last weekend when the junior QB led the Spartans to a 21-14 come-from-behind win.
“They are throwing bubble passes (screens) and hitches,” Guy said. “They are doing a lot of easier throws. They are using more shifts and motion.
“When they do go vertical, he has one of the better receivers in the league. James Jones is a big target.”
And make no mistake about it, the Spartans have a playmaking receiver in Jones, who along with John Broussard and Chester Coleman, give the Spartans three deep threats. Jones has 38 catches for 459 yards and four scores, Broussard has 29 catches for 379 yards and two TDs and Coleman has nine grabs for 107 yards and a score.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Tafralis said. “James, John, Chester and I came in together (2002-03). I like them a lot.”
The Nevada coaches have noticed a big difference, and are quick to point out that Tafralis wasn’t bad last year when he torched the Nevada secondary for 328 yards in a 30-23 loss.
“He seems much more comfortable,” Nevada coach Chris Ault said. “He knows the system; understands the system better. He’s doing a good job for them. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the conference.”
“Last year he was trying to understand it,” Nevada co-defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter said. “He’s done a great job at reading coverages, and that’s where that extra year has been so valuable.”
Nevada has a strong secondary, one of the best in the conference, and Joey Garcia and Nick Hawthrone are the leaders.
“They have good corners and they fly around to the ball,” Tafralis said. “They go after it. We’re not taking them lightly. They came in last year and stole one from us.”