When Romond Deloatch lined up in the second quarter against Cincinnati on Saturday, Nov. 10, he had already recorded his first collegiate reception a quarter ago. On the play, Deloatch beat his defender and Coyer put the ball right on his numbers. The Owls were primed for a big gain if Deloatch would have caught the ball.
The next play, Coyer threw an interception. Drive over. It was Coyer’s last pass of the game, and a microcosm of the Owls’ season.
The Owls started six freshmen compared to the Bearcats’ one. The Owls have played 20 freshmen this year, including four offensive linemen. Coach Steve Addazio recognizes the team’s inexperience, but he needs to stop playing games at the quarterback position.
“We are putting that puzzle together right now,” Addazio said. “We are just going to keep fighting. We are not together yet, that hasn’t happened. The pieces of the puzzle aren’t together yet. We have a lot of young guys in there and at times we make mistakes and critical errors.”
After redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer went 5-for-16 passing for 56 yards and one interception in the first half against Cincinnati, junior quarterback Clinton “Juice” Granger got the nod to start the second half. Coyer received the first, but not the final, snap for the fourth consecutive game.
Addazio is no stranger to having a quick trigger with his quarterbacks. Last season, Mike Gerardi started the first three games and Chester Stewart started the following six before ceding the title to Coyer who started the remaining four contests. Multiple quarterbacks attempted a pass in four games, tying this year’s mark. While Coyer has been the only starter this season, that could end this week.
After leading the Owls to a bowl win last season, Coyer started this season strong. But his past four weeks have been plagued by missed opportunities, overthrows, dropped passes and early exits. After he followed up a career-worst quarterback rating of 46.0 against Louisville with a 48.1 showing against Cincinnati, his starting status is in jeopardy. While Addazio would not name a starter for this week’s game against Army, he didn’t shy away from hinting at a change.
“Juice went in and I thought he did a nice job,” Addazio said. “I’m all about putting the guy in there that can move the football team and I thought Juice did a nice job.”
When Granger started the second half, the Owls came out on their first possession and scored their only touchdown of the game.
Coyer has averaged almost 50 yards rushing per game for a total of 444 on the season, giving a speed aspect to the offense that might cater to his style of play more than Granger’s. While Granger has only recorded 57 rushing yards this season, he has moved the ball more efficiently on offense in his past two appearances, eclipsing Coyer’s total passing yards in each game.
If the team wants to succeed, it needs to develop consistency. With freshman receivers and offensive linemen being asked to carry a larger load for the team, the quarterback’s job is far from easy.
The quarterback position is unlike any other in sports. The quarterback is responsible for every play and must rely on the other 10 players on offense to block, run the correct route, find the correct holes and catch the ball.
“The quarterback gets too much credit, and the quarterback gets too much blame,” Addazio said.
When redshirt-senior offensive lineman Sean Boyle went down with an injury, it forced freshman Kyle Friend to take command at center, giving the Owls two freshmen starters on the line. Friend had three bad snaps against Lousiville, two resulting in big losses and one in a fumble.
Aside from sophomore wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick, the team has lacked stability at the wide receiver position. Fitzpatrick has 24 catches for 322 yards, no other receiver has eclipsed 150 yards, as the team often relies on a core of young receivers. If playing time was determined solely by total receiving yards, even Temple’s most reliable target doesn’t put up the numbers of any No. 2 option of a Big East team.
Regardless of whom Addazio starts at quarterback each game, his choice doesn’t have all the pieces in place that cater to great success at the position. What doesn’t help the situation is the quarterback carousel that Addazio has created. He needs to select a starting quarterback and stick with his choice.
Temple has had competition during practices at the quarterback position for the past four weeks, looking for someone to prove they are capable to lead the offense.
Temple has two games left, one of which is in-conference. While bowl eligibility seems unlikely, the Owls still have an opportunity to develop offensive consistency for the future. Odds are, between Coyer and Granger, one of the two will be the starting quarterback at the beginning of next year.
Addazio needs to pick a starter and stick with him. Until then, he isn’t doing his young team any favors.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.