Former Minnesota quarterback headed to Jacksonville State
by Al Muskewitz
May 11, 2013 | 4294 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Max Shortell decided it finally was time to get off the wild and confusing ride that was his first two years at Minnesota, nothing was more important than finding the perfect place to land.

There were several suitors for a quarterback with 13 games of BCS experience, but it ultimately came down to where he and his gunslinger style fit best. That became Jacksonville State and once he completes the necessary paperwork, he’ll be on his way to becoming a Gamecock “for good.”

“One of the big things was playing right away,” Shortell said from his Kansas home Friday, a day after announcing his choice via Twitter. “I visited New Mexico, Louisville, a couple other places. I had plans to visit a couple other (FCS schools), but talking with that (JSU) staff down there and Coach (Bill) Clark, what they’re doing offensively really fits my style more than some of the other places I visited.

“I wanted a place I was wanted and a place I could fit in. … It’s my last shot. With two years left, being at a place where I fit offensively is the most important thing.”

Shortell, a big body like former JSU quarterback Thomas Darrah, described his style as “kind of a gunslinger who takes chances,” which has a chance to play well in the up-tempo, get-it-to-the-playmakers-on-the-edge offense Clark and offensive coordinator John Grass are installing.

Shortell, 6-6 and 226 pounds, was a three-sport standout in high school and a top 100 quarterback prospect according to several recruiting services, but Minnesota was his only football scholarship offer.

He committed to Gophers coach Tim Brewster in June 2010 and stuck with it — even through the upheaval that fall that eventually brought Jerry Kill to the program and even when Michigan came around right before Signing Day.

He began his true freshman year as the backup, but played in each of the first two games because starter MarQueis Gray couldn’t stay well. He made his first career start against Michigan and started the next week against Purdue.

The merry-go-round spun even faster in 2012. Shortell opened as the backup again, but replaced Gray in Week 3 and led the Gophers to a come-from-behind victory. He started the next three games, but then was replaced by a true freshman for the rest of the year.

In 13 career games, he completed 53.5 percent of his passes for 1,162 yards and eight touchdowns.

“It was really difficult,” he said. “My true freshman year I got a chance to play and played a lot … (but) the coaches would put me in some pretty difficult situations. I was excited to get the chance to be out there, but I didn’t have a chance to get in a rhythm.

“Going through it all, nothing made sense to me. … I said, ‘Coach, I have two years left. I don’t want you to do this to me for the next two years.’ I want to get out of here basically while I can.”

He was granted his release in December, but waited until the end of the academic year to transfer. Louisville was interested in bringing him in as a backup and Western Illinois was interested lately, but Shortell was most comfortable with the Gamecocks.

As for fitting, he’d better bring a shoehorn. Right now he is the sixth quarterback on JSU’s roster.

Rising senior Coty Blanchard is the presumptive starter, but he’s expected to get caught in the baseball draft and might not be back for football although he said at this point the plan was to return. Steven Coates is the next most experienced in-house quarterback, but he didn’t practice much this spring because of an arm injury.

Kyle West is a walk-on who made the most of his spring opportunity. Eli Jenkins played safety last year but starred in the spring game. Jayce Barber is a highly touted freshman who arrived in January, but he didn’t play in the spring game for medical reasons. Tyler Will also was in spring camp.

Shortell said the JSU coaches “explained everything” regarding Blanchard’s situation. He hopes to arrive in early June.

“They told me he’s a great player who has done good things there, but they said he’s also a terrific baseball player,” he said. “I’m just going to try to step in and lead the team. They say I have a shot. I’m going to come in and play as good as I can.

“The big deal at Minnesota was I was playing behind a kid who was statistically worse in NCAA football. To have a kid come in and play horrible, horrific, and still play above me was just unbelievable. I’m just excited to get somewhere and compete again.”

Sports Writer Al Muskewitz: 256-235-3577. On Twitter @almusky_star.
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