More Tom Brady, less Andy Dalton.
That’s how Mission Prep head coach Chad Henry described what he needs out of quarterback Bryce Fledderman as he enters his senior season in 2016.
The comparison is telling.
Brady is a four-time Super Bowl champion for the New England Patriots and one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time. Dalton is good, a two-time Pro Bowler who holds passing and touchdown records for the Cincinnati Bengals. Dalton also has a reputation for faltering in big games.
Fledderman emerged as a good quarterback last year, throwing for nine more touchdowns, 447 more yards and improving his completion percentage more than 12 points from his sophomore season. And he led Mission Prep to its first-ever Northern League title.
But the season ended earlier than expected when the Royals gave up a 14-point halftime lead in a 28-21 loss to Aquinas in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Northwest Division playoffs.
“It was a rough few days after that,” Fledderman said at practice last week. “We just lifted it up off our shoulders and were like, ‘That’s not us. That’s not us as a team. That’s not Mission Prep. That never should have happened.’ We just let it go and looked forward to this year.”
This season, with the loss of key players on defense like Patrick Miller, Conrad Ochotorena and Jacob Wright, the passing attack will likely be expected to rack up points to help keep Mission Prep in games and make up for a young defense.
“Our big thing is he has to be the commander in chief. He has to be the guy really leading the charge on offense,” Henry said. “I think he’s ready to embrace that challenge.”
The good news is, the offense the 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior will lead is the most athletic that Henry has seen during his time at Mission Prep. When Mission Prep held its annual combine recently, the numbers on the laser-timed 40-yard dash shocked him.
“Our times were so fast the kids went to remeasure the 40 to make sure it was actually 40 yards,” Henry said.
Seven players ran the 40 yards in 4.85 seconds or better, with wideout Angel Sanchez and twins Timmy Miller and Joseph Miller all running in the 4.6 range.
“I thought I could run even faster,” Sanchez said, adding he thinks he can hit 4.5.
Fledderman was standing right by the computer when the times came in.
“Once I saw that I was like, ‘What?!’” Fledderman said. “We said we were playing with speed last year, this year we are really playing with speed.”
Henry said the Mission Prep offense will be a lot more pass heavy, and Fledderman will be expected to call audibles and get the Royals into the best play for the quick hitting offense.
“We are not going to block people,” Henry said, referring to the team’s inexperienced offensive line. “Instead of trying to protect with six guys, we are releasing five.”
Fledderman will have help from the returning Brayden Corona, who rushed for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns last season to lead the Northern League.
Henry said the first few games of the season will be important, especially the season opener on the road against Bishop Diego, a team that was 13-1 and one win away from a spot in the CIF-SS Division finals. Last year, Henry said, Fledderman put too much pressure on himself early on.
“I tell him, ‘You have to be good, but you don’t have to be perfect,’ ” Henry said.
Fledderman, who is getting looks from schools like UC Davis and Cornell, is ready to let it fly.
“I feel like we have the right pieces of the puzzle to come up, it’s just going to be a different puzzle,” Fledderman said. “But it’s going to be really fun.”