As one era ends, another begins. This season the Temple Owls are tasked with finding a replacement for perhaps the most important player in the past two seasons. Phillip Walker. Walker lead the Owls to two straight 10-win seasons, an AAC Championship and two seasons ranked inside the top 25. Now the Owls must regroup. As Geoff Collins enters his tenure with the team, he must first decide (with the help of Offensive Coordinator/QB’s coach Dave Patenaude) his signal caller for the 2017 season. His candidates are: redshirt-sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt-junior Frank Nutile, redshirt-freshman Anthony Russo and incoming freshman Todd Centeio. Let’s break down the competition.
Logan Marchi – 6’0/190lbs
If the season started tomorrow, Logan Marchi would almost certainly be the starting quarterback for Temple Football. Although Offensive Coordinator Dave Patenaude said in camp he’s putting no emphasis on first and second team practice snaps, the Connecticut native has been the first quarterback with the starting offense for most of Spring. As far as on the field production, even Marchi’s small sample size is more than most of his competitors. In his limited action, Marchi has played in 5 games, attempted 6 passes only completing 2 for a total of 27 yards. Not much to examine here, so we turn to his high school tape. Marchi displays fantastic pocket awareness. When you put on his tape you can tell he has a natural feel in the pocket and knows how to escape pressure. He struggles with stepping up in the pocket and is much more likely to scramble and make something happen with his feet. This, along with his 4.50 speed, can account for the 789 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.
During Marchi’s high school career he amassed 9,702 passing yards and 112 touchdowns. It’s evident he’s mobile, but the tape showcases really nice touch on deep passes. His ball location on throws like the back shoulder fade and the 10 yard out prove his ability to be an accurate passer at the collegiate level, but he will need to straighten up his throwing mechanics to do so. If nothing else, Marchi is arguably smart enough to understand and lead a complex college offensive, being he was named to the 2015 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. Look for Marchi to be a real contender in this quarterback race.
Frank Nutile – 6’4/220lbs
Besides Marchi, Nutile is the only Owls quarterback with in game experience, but also like Marchi there’s not much to breakdown. In 6 career games, Nutile has thrown 5 passes completing all but 2. He totals just 40 career passing yards, which all came in the Owls’ homecoming matchup in 2015 against Tulane (3/3 40 yards), and one career passing touchdown. In 2015, Nutile was the primary backup quarterback, but this past season saw him battle Marchi, and lose that position for the next man up. It’s hard to have too much proof of who was or wasn’t the next man up the past two seasons because Phillip Walker started all 28 games.
Nutile has strong pocket awareness, but lacks the ability to escape pass rushers. Nutile does not pose much of a threat as a runner and is far more content sitting back in the pocket and making the precise throw. In terms up stepping up in the pocket and delivering a good pass Nutile seems comfortable. Like Marchi, he shows a strong arm and an accurate deep ball. His accuracy overall is more consistent than Marchi and his throwing mechanics are more fundamentally sound. He finished his high school career at the powerhouse Don Bosco Prep with 3,100 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. Nutile flashes his leadership and intelligence from leading his high school team to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 4 State
Semi-Final and by making the 2015 President’s Honor Roll and being selected to the 2014 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team. Nutile will definitely play a key role in this quarterback race.
Anthony Russo – 6’3/220lbs
On this week’s “Temple Timeout,” Owlscoop.com’s Kyle Gauss told Vince and Bri he believes the QB race is a two-man battle between Logan Marchi and Anthony Russo.
For the Owls, Russo has probably been their biggest quarterback recruit in years. While Russo has no experience at the collegiate level his list of high school accomplishments are impressive. He’s a three-year starter at another high school football powerhouse Archbishop Wood, an Elite 11 finalist and graduate, a first team all-state selection, the Catholic League MVP and Maxwell Awards Tri-State High School Player of the Year. Overall, there’s no denying he’s a gamer. Russo is similar to Nutile in a lot of ways. Both are pro-style, who don’t do much outside of the pocket, and both are 3-star recruits. When you turn on the tape though, Russo is more polished as a high school quarterback. This isn’t to say that Russo is the better player now, as Nutile has more experience and has seemingly improved, but Russo has been impressive.
Of all the quarterbacks, Russo’s high school career is the most illustrious. He is arguably the best pocket passer of the group and delivers the best deep ball of the group. His strong footwork and throwing motion allow him to put a lot of speed and accuracy behind his passes. During his time in high school he was exposed to a very pro-style offense giving him experience with all types of throws. He finished his high school career with 2,500 passing yards and 35 touchdowns. If there’s one weakness to Russo’s game it’s his mobility. He lacks the ability to escape the play which was a common occurrence in the latter years of quarterback Phillip Walker. Russo’s age puts him at a disadvantage to capture the starting quarterback position, but it wouldn’t be the first time a young quarterback took the reins of a strong team. Don’t be surprised if Russo makes some noise as he continues to compete for the position.
Todd Centeio – 6’0/205lbs
Todd Centeio is the outlier of the bunch. He’s a true freshman and is coming in out of Palm Beach Gardens, FL. While Centeio seems to have the slimmest chances of the bunch, you can never say never. Centeio spent time at two different places William T. Dwyer and Royal Palm high school. Before transferring to Dwyer he recorded over 2,000 passing yards and 27 TDs in two seasons. His senior season was more fruitful than his junior season. He threw for 2,344 yards and 31 TDs and rushed for four TDs in that season and earned first-team Palm Beach Football 8A-6A honors. Obviously, he’s a successful quarterback, but how does he stack up to the other quarterbacks?
Centeio is another pro-style quarterback. His game resembles Anthony Russo’s in a number of ways. Like Russo, Centeio is a good in the pocket passer and prefers to sit back in the pocket instead of use his feet. Although, unlike Russo, Centeio can use his legs if need be. When Centeio reaches the second level he turns into a shifty runner making him dangerous to opposing defenses. Video surfaced on Twitter from Temple Athletics of Centeio running in a designed QB run for a touchdown in a spring practice in late March, and you can bet the coaches took notice of that. To point out weaknesses, Centeio sometimes struggles to deliver strong passes. His inconsistent footwork and throwing motion account for several wobbly and inaccurate passes. However, due to the amount of upside in the true freshman, expect him to take the season to redshirt and tighten up his game. That isn’t saying with a great spring and summer he couldn’t win this job, but with 3 other quarterbacks, it isn’t looking likely.
At the end of the day, only the coaches really know who is ahead in the quarterback race. One things for sure, it’s going to be very interesting to see who comes out on top. The return of every receiver from last season and leading rusher Ryquell Armstead should ease the transition for any of the signal callers. Look for the Cherry and White game on April 22nd to shed some more light on the competition.