Rod Carey made the announcement as if it was just one more of the many decisions that the third-year Temple football coach is tasked with making in trying to rebound from a disappointing season that was marred by injuries, COVID-19, and plenty of losses.
In his post-spring practice press conference, Carey said that D’Wan Mathis had won the No. 1 quarterback job. So, there will be no suspense over the summer or at fall camp.
Carey stated that Mathis would get most of the reps with the No. 1 unit in the fall. As a contingency, a backup or two would also get reps.
That is because Temple used six quarterbacks last year, including receiver Branden Mack for a few snaps, during a 1-6 season that was cut short by a game after Temple and Cincinnati canceled the Owls’ season finale due to COVID-19 issues on both teams.
Carey and his staff have many decisions to make with many position battles, but the most important one is out of the way. And it seemed inevitable.
Mathis, the 6-foot-6, 205-pound redshirt freshman transfer from Georgia, will be the new face of the program. He beat out redshirt sophomore Re-al Mitchell, who played three games at quarterback for the Owls last season after transferring from Iowa State.
Due to COVID-19, the NCAA ruled that last season didn’t count on a player’s eligibility. So Mathis is eligible to play four seasons. It’s like getting a highly-prized high school recruit with two years of college experience.
Mathis started the season opener for Georgia but was benched before the game ended and played sparingly the rest of the season. .
Still, he was able to earn a starting spot, even if only for one game, at one of the high-profile programs competing in the the SEC, by far the best conference in college football.
Mathis came to Temple with high expectations. He may not be as fast or dynamic of a runner as Mitchell, who can really motor, but Mathis can still do damage with his legs.
Yet is it his arm that and field presence that has excited those involved in the Temple program.
Carey felt there was no need to drag the decision along. Even though Carey missed the final six practices with COVID-19, he saw enough of Mathis to realize that he is ready to attempt to lead the Owls back to respectability.
Before last year, Temple had earned five consecutive bowl bids, the longest continuous streak in program history. Also during that time, the Owls won two American Athletic Conference East Division titles and one overall league championship, in 2016. Then the program took a gigantic step back.
It didn’t seem like it was a difficult choice as to why Mathis earned the spot.
“His productivity in the spring,” Carey said. “I think when you look at his overall consistency, explosiveness, lack of turnovers, and different things like that ... that’s certainly where he separated himself.”
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Even before the starter was named, Temple was changing its offense. Anthony Russo had been the starter the last three years, although he was limited to three games last season due to injury. He started 26 games in three seasons but transferred to Michigan State.
Russo has one of the strongest arms in college football, but he wasn’t known for his mobility. Now, with Mathis, there will be more run-pass options that defenses will have to deal with.
For Mathis, this is quite a culture change, coming from Athens, Ga., where college football is king, to Philadelphia, a pro football town where the biggest interest in college football comes with the NFL draft.
“The biggest difference is that this is for tough guys only,” Mathis said earlier in spring practice. “Tough guys meaning, If you are not built for this, you are not going to make it in this town.”
Mathis feels he is ready, and so does his coach.
Now he can spend his summer getting used to his teammates and becoming accustomed to being the starting quarterback, the one leading the Owls onto the field for the Sept. 4 opener at Rutgers.