Despite leading Temple University football to 7-3 record in 10 starts last season, Anthony Russo isn’t guaranteed to be the Owls’ starting quarterback this year.
Russo, a redshirt junior, practiced as a first-stringer during spring camp, which ended with Saturday’s Cherry and White Fan Fest.
But first-year coach Rod Carey has not yet named him the starter because redshirt-sophomore quarterback Todd Centeio impressed him during spring practices.
“Right now, Russo has earned the extra reps,” Carey said on Saturday. “But that doesn’t mean in no way shape or form that [Centeio] can’t change that narrative through his play.”
Centeio offers versatility as a mobile quarterback. Last season, under former coach Geoff Collins, he had 82 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown on 20 carries. Collins and former offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude used Centeio in trick plays and special offensive packages to give him playing time last year.
Last season, Centeio played in 12 games and completed 12-of-18 passing attempts for 149 yards and two touchdowns. His longest passing attempt of the season was on a fake punt 36-yard touchdown to redshirt-junior wide receiver Freddie Johnson in a win against the University of Maryland on Sept. 15, 2018.
Centeio, however, has been working on his pocket passing this spring to be more well-rounded. Centeio received extra snaps during the scrimmage portion of Saturday’s practice after Russo left with a right thumb injury. He completed throws from both inside and outside the pocket while showcasing his ability to make plays on the run.
This spring, Centeio has more power behind his throws, especially on the run, redshirt-junior tight end Kenny Yeboah said.
On Saturday, Centeio scrambled to his right and delivered a strong throw to Yeboah along the sideline during the Owls’ 11-on-11 practice session.
“Since I got here, I’ve proved people wrong,” Centeio said. “I don’t feel I am just a runner. I feel I have that perfect blend of throwing and running.”
The Owls’ coaches are pleased with Centeio’s development after his performance in spring practices, Carey said. Centeio took time to adjust to the new playbook and practice style.
Everything started to click for him about a two weeks ago, he said after the Owls’ practice on April 9.
“I feel like I broke through maybe a week ago and everything feels even [better] and I am out there making plays, having fun and doing what I do,” Centeio said.
“It’s a confidence thing, just having confidence knowing that I can actually be explosive and make a bunch of plays,” Centeio added.
Both Centeio and Russo improved their play throughout spring practices, Carey said. Carey noted Russo has earned first-string reps this spring for amassing 2,563 passing yards and 14 passing touchdowns last season, but he believes Centeio is making “great strides”
“I like the way the quarterbacks have progressed,” Carey added. “They’ve really made the jump, really [Centeio] and Russo. I think there’s good quarterback play going on there.”
While Centeio’s athletic ability gives the Owls the ability to utilize him at several positions, quarterbacks coach Craig Harmon has explicitly said that Centeio is a quarterback.
“Obviously [Centeio] has a dynamic where he can run the ball,” Harmon said. “But he is a quarterback.”
It is too early to determine if Carey and Temple’s coaches will design plays specifically meant for Centeio, Harmon said.
Yeboah likes how Centeio and Russo are able to complement one another with their playing styles.
“I love seeing [Centeio] running around out there, throwing the ball,” Yeboah said. “It’s just nice to see him and Russo. They’re both different playing styles, so it’s definitely nice to have two different quarterbacks with two different playing styles.”