The Spokane Shock roster is stocked with new faces after a busy offseason and one of those has been picked to handle the most influential position in arena football.
Veteran Carson Coffman has earned the starting quarterback nod over Warren Smith for Spokane’s season opener against three-time defending Arena Football League champion Arizona in Phoenix on Saturday.
“I think he’s very capable and progressed every day in camp,” third-year coach Andy Olson said. “He’s very calm, a relaxed guy and I like the way he carries himself in front of everybody. He’s somebody that doesn’t panic under pressure situations.”
Coffman’s first assignment is obviously a tough one, right along the lines of being the guy selected to replace Erik Meyer, the former Shock standout who has moved on to Western Conference rival San Jose.
“I followed Erik’s career and he’s been very successful,” Coffman said. “At the same time, this is about winning football games as a team and I think we have a good team. I’m excited about the players surrounding me – that’s also what makes quarterbacks good. You’ve seen good quarterbacks when they’re put in bad situations, but I’m excited about the guys around me.”
Coffman and Meyer have one thing in common: both were backups to Tommy Grady in Utah. Coffman spent his 2012 rookie season in that role. Spokane obtained Meyer from Utah during the 2011 season and the former Eastern Washington Eagle – when healthy – directed a potent offense, but the Shock weren’t able to unseat the Rattlers.
Coffman, a Kansas State product, passed for 2,970 yards and 53 touchdowns in 14 games with Iowa last season. Coffman’s best season came in Chicago in 2013 when he completed 283 of 467 for 3,583 yards and 73 touchdowns. The Rush, with Luke Drone at quarterback, lost to the Shock 69-47 in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s a quarterback driven league,” Coffman said. “If you don’t have a good quarterback you can’t win games. I think I bring a winning attitude and a good work ethic.”
Spokane’s starting job wasn’t handed to Coffman. Smith played two seasons in the Professional Indoor Football League. He led Trenton into the playoffs last season and was the PIFL’s most valuable player. As a senior, Smith passed for 3,122 yards and guided Maine into the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.
“Warren is on Carson’s heels and ready to play at any moment,” Olson said. “He’s definitely going to get on the field at some point. It’s just nice to have two quarterbacks that I feel like can start. I’ve never had that before.”
Something new, something old
Derrick Summers, a standout Mac linebacker last season, is back but he’s changing positions. He’ll move to defensive end, the position he earned second-team All-AFL honors as a rookie with Jacksonville in 2011.
The Shock should have a formidable front with Summers, tackle Terrance Taylor and end James Ruffin, the AFL’s defensive lineman of the year in 2014. Last year Summers and Terence Moore, now with Orlando, formed one of the league’s top Mac/Jack LB tandems.
“It’s not a big adjustment,” Summers said. “I’ve been pretty successful (at end). My first year I think I had 11 sacks.”
Matangi Tonga, who was with Iowa last season, is expected to replace Summers at Mac.
“He’s doing very, very well,” Summers said.
Shock standouts Meyer, Moore, Adron Tennell and Terrance Sanders have new addresses this season, but Summers likes what he’s seen from the new-look roster.
“I like the hunger,” Summers said. “A lot of these guys are eager and hungry to win games. I like how everyone is positive.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.