As far as Temple head coach Geoff Collins was concerned, Saturday was game day for he and his Owls.
They stayed at a hotel Friday night. They woke up Saturday morning and had a team breakfast. They went through team walkthroughs and drills before gearing up and stepping on to the turf. They went “live” with everything they did.
But the reality is that Saturday was only the Owls’ final intrasquad scrimmage before the end of camp and that the season opener at Notre Dame is still exactly two weeks away.
“It was just so that when we get ready to play a game, we’ve already done all of it,” Collins, Temple’s first-year leader, said after the scrimmage at historic and toasty Franklin Field. “And the young guys who’ve never made a trip for us, they were there. They got to go through the whole process, so it was an unbelievable day.”
But the reality also is that Temple still doesn’t have a starting quarterback just two weeks ahead of traveling to South Bend.
Three weeks of camp and an offseason of preparation have settled nothing in the four-pronged race for the starter’s crown. Redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and true freshman Todd Centeio again all split reps up and down the depth chart Saturday.
Collins just knew reporters couldn’t wait to ask the question.
“The big thing the last couple weeks is that every day one of the guys who’s pulled apart and then someone else has pulled apart,” Collins said of his team’s ongoing quarterback battle. “It’s going to be exciting watching the tape of this scrimmage because last scrimmage, it felt like there was a little separation with two guys. Today, I think it might have been a little bit more.”
So rather than waiting for reporters to ask the next logical question, Collins just went ahead unprompted and answered it for everyone with a recorder or phone or microphone or camera in sight.
“Hopefully by the end of this week, we’ll have some guys who we can say are above the line.”
“Above the line” is Collins-speak for the first team, second team and so on and so forth. He doesn’t believe in actual depth charts or the philosophies behind them.
And that “some guys” comment is interesting. With four players in fierce competition with one another and apparently not separating themselves enough, could a multi-QB system actually be realistic?
The QBs have different builds and styles. Nutile and Russo each check in at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and are certainly more pro-style, pocket passers. They can scamper if need be, but standing tall in the pocket and seeing the whole field is how they excel. Marchi and Centeio each check in at 6-foot. Centeio weighs in at 201 pounds while Marchi weighs in at 192 pounds. Both guys are known for their ability to scramble and create havoc when the pocket breaks down.
“I believe in the guys who are ready to play at a high level for a top-25 championship program,” Collins said.
The fact of the matter is that whoever grabs the brass starter’s ring(s) will be thrown into the nationally televised fire with bundles of inexperience or no experience at all.
Russo and Centeio have never even suited up for a college game. Nutile and Marchi have combined to go 5 for 9 for 69 yards and a touchdown since 2015. Of course, having prolific program record-breaker Phillip Walker ahead of them played a pretty big role in that.
But still, big shoes need to be filled on a big stage. And all that inexperience will have to evaporate quickly for the Owls to have a chance not only on Sept. 2 in South Bend but also moving forward.
And the Owls who’ve played with and against all four QBs every day this summer are confident that whoever has the ball in his hands can lead the way.
“Every quarterback is different,” said senior Adonis Jennings, who, along with senior Keith Kirkwood and junior Ventell Bryant make up a deep and talented wideout corps the QB(s) will be throwing to.
“So whatever style or type of offense we’re going to run, whoever fits that best is going to be the quarterback. I like all four of them and we’ll see what happens.”
“It’s good, honestly, because we’ve got guys who can run and we’ve got guys who can pocket pass and things like that,” senior safety Sean Chandler said of the QBs he goes up against every day in practice. “I feel like they’re all very precise and they make good decisions. Those are things that we need.”
Jennings admitted, though, there is work to do when it comes to preparing with four different quarterbacks.
“You just have to adjust to each quarterback’s playing style,” he said. “You have to build a connection with all four of them just to get things right with them so that they can know the offense and get connected with the receivers, the tight ends, the linemen, the running backs and the whole offense in general.”
Only two more weeks to adjust.
Special teams update
Temple also has a less-heralded battle going on at kicker between senior Austin Jones and sophomore Aaron Boumehri.
Jones started 2016 as the Owls’ kicker and went 10 for 12 before tearing his left ACL in a loss at Memphis on Oct. 6. Boumehri, a former walk-on, took over and impressed with a booming leg that connected on 15 of 17 attempts.
Now with Jones back healthy, the two are locked in a heated competition for kicking duties.
Collins noted both have excelled during camp and even said that strength coaches told him Jones’ leg is stronger now than it was before the injury.
Just like with the QB decision, two weeks left to make a final call.