Sports

Quarterback battle: ’Everyone wants the job’

Five quarterbacks are vying to replace Phillip Walker as the starter.

After becoming the first quarterback to lead Temple to multiple bowl games and the Owls’ all-time leading passer, Phillip Walker is now pursuing a professional career.

For the first time in three years, the Owls began spring practices with a question mark at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Anthony Russo, redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt freshman Tommy Wyatt and freshman Todd Centeio are competing for the starting role.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said the team is looking for one quarterback to emerge as the starter, rather than using a two-quarterback system. A depth chart hasn’t been established yet, he said.

“I think the thing that as a quarterback, the best you thing you need is kind of between your ears, that mental aspect of it,” Russo said. “Being able to handle yourself on the field, being able to be a leader. Being able to, when you’re in front of 100,000 people and everyone’s all chaotic and all nervous, being able to settle everyone down and do your job.”

Patenaude knows how important the quarterback position is. He spent last season as Coastal Carolina University’s offensive coordinator. Despite using seven quarterbacks, the Chanticleers went 10-2 in their last season at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

Patenaude said his offense will have some uptempo, option and wildcat elements, while maintaining some of former offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas’ offense, like two-back sets. He said who the quarterback is will affect the offense.

“You gotta be able to get guys ready,” Patenaude said. “You have to understand what their skill set is. You have to maximize their skill set. You have to be able to play to their skill set. Don’t ask them to do things that they can’t do. Taper your offense around what they can do and we’ll be fine.”

“Don’t worry about who is going to play quarterback,” he added.

Marchi and Nutile are the only ones competing for the job with Division I experience. Nutile threw a touchdown in 2015 against Tulane. He is 3-for-5 in his career, with two attempts last season.

Marchi, who threw for 9,702 yards in high school, completed two passes last year against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

“It definitely helps being able to see the speed of the game, transition from high school to college,” Marchi said. “It’s definitely faster. Being here a couple of years has helped slow the game down a bit.”

Russo redshirted last year after switching his commitment from Rutgers University to Temple. Patenaude said he is a “good thrower” and “athletic enough to run some option.”

Centeio came to Temple in January as an early enrollee. He threw for more than 4,000 yards in his high school career, including 2,344 yards as a senior in 2016 at William T. Dwyer High School in Florida. Patenaude said he has a “good sense of how to play quarterback.”

Wyatt earned first-team all-state honors at Overbrook High School in Pine Hill, New Jersey. He scored 27 total touchdowns as a senior in 2015.

“The big thing, this whole offseason we were evaluating leadership,” coach Geoff Collins said. “How the guys were positively affecting their teammates, those kind of things.”

“We have a great relationship off the field,” Nutile said. “Everyone is really close. But at the end of the day, we’re competitors and everyone wants the job.”

The next starting quarterback has the job of continuing what Walker and the rest of Temple’s graduating seniors started.

“It’s exciting,” Russo said. “Pressure is what makes a quarterback in my opinion. If you can’t play under pressure, then you’re playing the wrong position.”

Evan Easterling can be reached at evan.easterling@temple.edu or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.

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