Eric Erbe rolled out to the left, squared his shoulders and threw a 15- to 20-yard rope to Kam Koester on the sideline. The ball was perfectly placed and Koester grabbed the pigskin out of the air on Tuesday evening behind the Chanute Communiuty Sports Complex.
In only the second week of football practice, the new Chanute Blue Comets starting quarterback sophomore Erbe has been taking first-team repetitions and head football coach Clete Frazell is looking to him to be the leader of the offense.
Koester, a junior wide receiver for the Blue Comets who now dons a shiny new visor on his helmet, said he and Erbe are developing a quarterback-receiver rapport early on.
“I worked all summer with him really out on the field, so our trust is there. He knows where to throw it and I know where to be really, and I always trust that it’s a good ball and just to make the best play for him,” Koester said.
It wasn’t too long ago that Koester was trusting former CHS quarterback Ty Bowman. Bowman, who last year was an All-State, All-SEK and Shrine Bowl quarterback, used his all-around skills to earn a role at Kansas State University as a tight end this year.
Last season, Bowman was a huge component in leading Chanute to the state sectionals and their winningest football season since 2013. Experiencing Bowman’s style at quarterback, Koester said both Bowman and Erbe do a good job of getting him the ball, but it will come down to reading defenses in live action in the 2020 season.
Although Erbe began playing football in fourth grade as a running back when he attended Erie Elementary School, he started his quarterback development process when he transferred to Royster Middle School. Erbe went to numerous football camps while at Royster as well. As a freshman last year, he was the backup quarterback to Bowman, while also playing on the junior varsity team.
Erbe said he learned a lot from Bowman.
“I learned a lot from being the backup, learning in practice, watching from the sideline, and this year I’m looking forward to starting and doing my best for the team,” Erbe said.
Erbe has taken that knowledge and used it through the summer. The Thayer native attended quarterback camps in Lenexa, Colorado and Kansas City, and built up chemistry with his receivers at the Chanute Community Sports Complex.
Creating trust with his receivers has helped Erbe in reading defenses, which needs to be executed with a catchable ball.
“I mean I definitely have room to improve every day in practice. I mean, I’m at a good point right now, but I’ve just got to improve every day in practice,” Erbe continued, “keep my arm high so (the football) doesn’t get swatted down, don’t get my shoulders down too far, don’t throw it too low, (don’t) get my shoulders up, throw it too high.”
In training camp and practice, Erbe has shown the ability inside and outside of the pocket to throw the ball for receivers to easily catch and run up the field. He has also shown the quickness and agility needed to evade defenders outside the pocket.
Frazell said he is has faith in the ability of his new starting quarterback.
“I’m confident in him. Being a sophomore, there’s a learning curve there, and Eric has put in a lot of work to help minimize that learning curve,” Frazell said. “Being a sophomore, he’s a really good player. There’s going to be ups and downs along the way, and we know that, as it would with a junior and senior as well, but I’m comfortable with him filling Ty’s shoes. But he brings some different skill sets to the table than Ty does, so he’s going to be a good one for sure. I’m hoping the work that he’s done and the work we’ve put in this summer will get him ready to go. Most sophomores aren’t ready to play at a high level right out the gate. But I think Eric is a special kid that could do that.”
In 2019, Chanute had a special season led by an All-League quarterback. And while Frazell’s job is to take a player’s best attributes and utilize them in the best position on the field, the comparison of Erbe and Bowman is inevitable since the Blue Comets historic football season is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
Both Erbe and Bowman have good arms. Bowman might have a stronger arm right now, but that’s because he is older and his body is more developed. Erbe is a little quicker from the start of his run – the 6’1”, 162-pound quarterback loves to evade defenders when running up the field – though Bowman is fast for a bigger player at 6’5”, 220 pounds. Erbe is a right-handed thrower who can mobilize outside the pocket and throw accurate spirals, and Bowman showed the same ability last season as a left-hander.
Throughout camp, Erbe has looked confident as he exhibited his fundamental decision-making process and being patient in the pocket, allowing his receivers to finish their routes before making catches.
With Koester working on his footwork in cone drills, perfecting his route combinations without selling his route to the defense, blocking and catching, Erbe will try to use Koester and other playmakers to make another deep run in postseason play.
“...He’s going to facilitate our offense and make sure everything is run smooth. He’s going to throw the ball, and we’ll run him a little bit, but we don’t want him to get banged up during the course of the season, so we’ll probably try and keep him fairly rested and safe in the running game, and if we need it, by all means we’ll use it,” Frazell said.