Collins’s football program builds depth at quarterback

Redshirt senior Frank Nutile enters the spring as the No. 1 quarterback in a four-man group.

Redshirt-senior quarterback Frank Nutile (left) tries to juke senior linebacker Todd Jones during Saturday’s practice at Chodoff Field. | EVAN EASTERLING / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Last season, coach Geoff Collins gave quarterback Frank Nutile the nickname “Frankie Juice” because of his energy and how players gravitated toward him.

So naturally, when the redshirt senior received the No. 8 jersey from the previous two players to wear it in their senior seasons, it had “Juice” stitched on the back.

Nutile threw for at least 200 yards in each of his six starts in 2017 and enters the season as the top quarterback out of the Owls’ four-man group, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. But he has to perform well in practices to stay there.

“The hallmark of any really good program is going to be that there’s competition at every position, and he’s going to have to hold onto his job,” Patenaude said. “Those other guys are playing well, and they’re going to keep pushing him. The great thing is we’re building depth.”

The quarterbacks behind Nutile are redshirt sophomore Anthony Russo, redshirt freshman Todd Centeio and freshman Trad Beatty, who is the lone left-hander of the group.

Russo played in three games last season as the holder on field-goal attempts and extra-point tries. He’ll keep that role this season. Centeio played in two games in 2017 and completed both of his pass attempts in the Owls’ 29-21 win against UMass on Sept. 15 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Beatty joined Temple in Spring 2018 as a mid-year enrollee after graduating from the Ben Lippen School in South Carolina. He had a 29-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio as a senior.

The four players have a group chat, Russo said, where they coordinate film study sessions at Edberg-Olson Hall. The quarterbacks try to watch film every night for about an hour to 90 minutes if they don’t have a meeting with a coach, Russo said.

Russo spent his offseason working on the intellectual nuances of football, like knowing where to go with the ball on every play.

“I think as quarterback, you can always improve your mental game,” he said. “You can never watch enough film. So I think just pounding the film day in and day out, just seeing the things that I might not have been too comfortable on last year and making my weaknesses my strengths…was a big thing I did in the offseason.”

Russo also worked to quicken what he called his “loopy” throwing motion, which was a byproduct of his days as a baseball player at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

“From where he was this time last year to where he is now is probably 90 to 100 percent different,” Patenaude said. “He’s a lot quicker. His circle is a lot tighter. He gets the ball out a lot faster. His balance and his base is much better.”

“You watch that kid throw the ball, he looks like a major college quarterback,” Patenaude added.

Centeio has also improved — by “light-years,” he said. He has a better idea of when to modify the protection scheme to counteract a blitz, he added.

Centeio gives the Owls the ability to implement packages for zone reads, speed options and triple options, which aren’t Nutile’s “cup of tea,” Patenaude said.

“Anytime that we can legitimize the quarterback as a real threat to run the ball, that really makes it more difficult for the defensive guys to kind of get lined up,” Patenaude added.

Centeio joined the Owls as an early enrollee last season, which gave him the opportunity to compete against Nutile, Russo and former quarterback Logan Marchi, who transferred to East Tennessee State University in January, for the starting spot.

Centeio wants Beatty to take advantage of participating in spring camp rather than getting his first taste of college football during the summer.

Russo said Beatty knows more than he did as a freshman. Because Beatty is 6 feet, 5 inches tall, he can see over the line of scrimmage and deliver throws, Patenaude said.

“He’s really picking up the offense really fast,” Nutile said. “It’s really amazing to see for how short of time he’s been here how well he’s been able to pick up the offense and really not lose a step.”

Nutile and his teammates believe they are a “special group” with a lot of leadership and experience. After the Owls’ Gasparilla Bowl win against Florida International University in December, Nutile couldn’t wait to start winter workouts.

“We got some big goals this year, and we’re ready to attack and really get better every day out here,” he said. “So we’re excited to be back.”

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