Questions surround Temple's undefined quarterback situation

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

If Geoff Collins’ smile could talk, here’s what it would say:

I know something you don’t know.

Of course, what Temple’s first-year head coach actually said was nothing. On Tuesday, four days prior to the Owls’ season debut at Notre Dame, Collins was asked if he has decided which of his quarterbacks will start a few minutes after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

He nodded.

He smiled that devious smile.

And no, he didn’t elaborate.

The available facts, with Saturday’s season opener looming, are these: Collins recently narrowed his quarterback race from four to three, though he declined to announce which quarterbacks remain in contention. Four quarterbacks appear in Temple’s “above the line” depth chart — which includes all players who have earned the right to play — in no order: redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, freshman Todd Centeio and redshirt freshman Anthony Russo.

Of those four, only two — Nutile and Marchi — have taken a game snap for the Owls. Behind since-departed starter Phillip Walker, Marchi completed two of six passes for 29 yards and -2 rushing yards last season, while Nutile has gone 3-5 for 40 yards and a touchdown with -4 rushing yards in the last two seasons combined.

“We've tried to find as much tape as we could on everybody,” Notre Dame linebacker Nyles Morgan said. “But like you said, there's not much tape.”

Collins did confirm in Monday’s American Athletic Conference teleconference that two quarterbacks are taking the majority of Temple’s snaps, “but we’re also working specialized packages and some pretty unique things with some other guys.”

That’s it. That’s all the available information.

Now, popular opinion dictates that the two quarterbacks battling for Temple’s starting spot are its most (barely) experienced options: Nutile (6-4, 225) and Marchi (6-0, 205). Moreover, it’s likely that Centeio — a 6-1, 212-pound freshman — will be gifted those “specialized packages” in an attempt to implement the quarterback run game.

As for Collins?

His silence — his smile — is deafening.

“We’ve been rotating through,” Collins said with a knowing grin Tuesday, when prodded further on the topic. “That’s a great question. Great Question.”

Great questions, unfortunately, aren’t always met with great answers.

But Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly doesn’t seem to care what the answer is.

"(I’m) not certain about the quarterback situation, but we really can't worry about that,” Kelly said Tuesday. “We have to be able to do what we do in an opener, and that is run our defense, execute what we do. They could run as many as three different, four different quarterbacks.

“You just have to be prepared for football, from zone read to the different types of offensive sets. So we're prepared for whatever happens at the quarterback position.”

Kelly, of course, knows a thing or two about playing — and defending — multiple quarterbacks. This time last year, Kelly was the one refusing to name a starting quarterback between DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. Moreover, Notre Dame’s season-opening opponent — Texas — did the same, rolling out a pair of quarterbacks in the Longhorns’ eventual 50-47 overtime win.

You can win with one quarterback. You can win with two quarterbacks.

Can you win with three quarterbacks?

Time, it seems, will tell.

“The team’s rallying around the guys,” Collins said. “I know our receiving corps, our o-line, our running back, tight ends want to do their part to make sure they complement whoever is under center throughout the game.”

For first-year Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude, this situation is nothing new. A year ago, while serving as Coastal Carolina’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, six Chanticleer quarterbacks took snaps during the season, and eight different players attempted passes.

Oh, and Coastal Carolina won 10 games.

“So (Patenaude’s) experience with the type of defense you’re playing, the way your team is setting up throughout the year, his experience using different guys, I think, is huge,” Collins said. “The way our guys are preparing, every one of our kids and really every kid in the program is preparing like they’re going to play the entire game — like they’re the guy.”

Collins doesn’t believe in established starters — at the quarterback position, or anywhere else.

On Saturday, someone will start.

But, after it’s over, will Collins be smiling?

“We want every single one of our kids preparing and getting ready like it’s their shot, because you never know,” Collins said. “It might be.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi is one of four Temple quarterbacks competing to play in Saturday's season opener against Notre Dame (photo courtesy Temple Athletics).