After appearing in 34 career games with 29 career starts between Missouri (three years) and Indiana (one year), it may have taken a little extra push to bring 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback Connor Bazelak to Bowling Green State University.
It helped that Bazelak played his prep football at Kettering Archbishop Alter High School near Dayton, where he led Alter to the state championship game two years in a row, winning the Division III state title in 2019.
You can throw in that BG is an hour drive from Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, one of the highest ranked parks by roller coaster enthusiasts on the planet.
“I’m a huge roller coaster guy,” Bazelak said. “Down in Cincinnati they have King’s Island (also owned by Cedar Fair), and we used to go there because it’s only 45 minutes from Dayton, but Cedar Point is three hours away and it is three times better.
“You can’t beat it. I love it. My family, I’d say every three or four years we always try to make a trip up there because there is something about roller coasters we love,” Bazelak continued. “I’ll wait in a 45-minute, hour line for the Millennium Force, and Top Thrill Dragster. It’s awesome.”
He said that Millennium Force is his favorite “probably because you’re on the lake and it feels like you’re diving right into the water.”
Bazelak comes from a athletic family, including two sisters who played NCAA Division I sports and an uncle who played football at that school “up north.”
“It’s awesome being right up the road from Dayton. I’ve had a lot of uncles play football in Ohio — one actually played at Toledo,” Bazelak said. “I have a lot of friends who played in Ohio at a lot of smaller schools, a couple friends who go here and my family is close, so it’s awesome being back in Ohio.”
Bazelak comes to BGSU with 7,370 career passing yards, 36 touchdowns and a 62.2 completion percentage for his career, and that is playing in power five conferences. In 2020, he was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Year.
He is one of five candidates for the starting job replacing Matt McDonald, who finished his career ninth all-time at BGSU with 5,921 passing yards and led the Falcons to a 6-7 season last year, including an appearance at the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit.
Other candidates are 6-3, 230-pound Camden Orth, 5-11, 210-pound Daelen Menard, 6-3, 190-pound Lucian Anderson III, and 6-4, 210-pound Owen Bainbridge. Right now, they are in the midst of an early spring practice and getting evaluated.
“You’ve got all new quarterbacks, so having the ability to get out here and start teaching the system to the new guys has been great. I think they are all playing well,” BGSU coach Scot Loeffler.
“I think our group has taken the next step at that position, and I expect those guys to learn this summer, have a great training camp and go out and produce. The quarterback position has been a real major emphasis.”
They all arrived at BGSU via different routes. Orth, a senior, is from Gainesville, Florida, played in 10 of the Falcons’ 13 games last year. Menard transferred from Boston College, Anderson is a new freshman recruit this year and Bainbridge was a freshman recruit last year.
“They played a lot of football,” Loeffler said. “Connor has played a ton of football, Daelen has been in a system similar to ours at Boston College.”
Menard (Davie, Florida) comes to BGSU after four years at Boston College. A standout quarterback at Chaminade-Madonna, he led his team to consecutive Florida Class 3A state championships as a junior and senior in 2017 and 2018.
In a shortened 2020 season, Bainbridge led Stow-Munroe Falls to a 5-2 year in 2020 after passing for 1,093 yards and nine touchdowns and he rushed for 402 yards and seven touchdowns
At Athens High School (Georgia), Anderson threw for 3,294 yards and 28 touchdowns for his career, while rushing for 936 yards and 19 scores.
“He is going to be really good — he’s fast and athletic and literally trying to find a way to (get up to collegiate gridiron game-speed). He’s just a good player and I’m just overall happy with the group.”
Orth played the entire second half during the Falcons’ 24-19 loss to New Mexico State at the Quick Lane Bowl in December after McDonald took a vicious hit in the first half.
Orth finished the game completing 14-of-22 passes for 191 yards, including four to senior tight end Christian Sims for 56 yards. Orth said he’s ready for whatever is to come.
“It’s a lot of new faces, right, so we lost (2022 junior) Drew (Gunther) and we lost Matt from last year, so we have three new guys, including Lucian, the freshman,” Orth said. “It’s a great group of guys and we’re ready to get to work and get after it.”
As he looks across Perry Fieldhouse, Orth said he has noticed there are new faces everywhere, and he adds that is not a bad thing.
“We’re super excited,” Orth said. “We lost a bunch of explosive guys, including some guys on defense that are going to do big things.
“We’ve got a bunch of new transfers coming in this year. We got guys trying to learn the offense, trying to learn the defense who just want to get better every day.”
Loeffler said with the newcomers, Orth will have his work cut out for him if he wants to take over the starting job.
“He’s coming along,” Loeffler said. “There is a difference between being a good back-up and a good starter. I think he is a very quality backup, but he needs to take those next steps to become a starter.
“It’s going to be great competition in that room. I’m proud of Cam, I’m proud of the new guys and it will be fun to watch them compete. Right now, I’m not in any rush to make any decisions whatsoever.
“I really want to spend these next seven weeks working on becoming better, then when we get to June, same deal, and then we’ll have another great competition in training camp.”