Anthony Russo, who started 12 games last year for Temple, is still the front-runner for the quarterback job, but first-year Owls coach Rod Carey isn’t going to anoint a starter this spring.
Russo, who will be a redshirt junior, remains in the lead at this stage, but Carey isn’t counting out redshirt sophomore Todd Centeio. Redshirt freshman Trad Beatty appears to be the No. 3.
“Obviously, Russo is ahead of Toddy,” Carey said after Saturday’s practice. “But Toddy is making great strides. Trad has really stepped up. I am really happy with that.”
Carey says the play of the quarterbacks has been among the most pleasant developments during spring practice, which will end Saturday with the Cherry & White Fan Fest, which is basically an open team workout that will take place instead of a spring game.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Centeio is an interesting case because he is by far the best runner of the quarterbacks. Last season, he was employed in certain packages, and he also was the up man on the punt team (and he threw one TD pass). Centeio was used in practices at running back and sometimes receiver a year ago, but he has been used strictly at quarterback this spring. He also hasn’t worked on special teams.
“I think since I got here I proved people wrong,” Centeio said after Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t feel I am just a runner. I feel I have that perfect blend of throwing and running.”
Centeio says he recently felt as if he had turned the corner this spring.
“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,” said Centeio, who attempted 18 passes and also rushed for 82 yards and a TD on 20 carries last season.
So for now, Russo remains the starter.
“That doesn’t mean in no shape or form he [Centeio] can’t change that narrative,” Carey said.
Centeio was used in different packages last season to take advantage of his running ability. Nothing like that has been installed this spring.
“It is way too early to talk about that,” Temple quarterbacks coach Craig Harmon said. “In the spring, you are just trying to develop our offense and get our offense put in where these guys know it.”
Don’t be surprised if packages are put in for Centeio, although Harmon wanted to emphasize he is much more than just a gifted runner.
“He’s a quarterback,” Harmon said. “He can run the ball — that is a dynamic in his skill set — but he is a quarterback.”
So is Russo, who has impressed Harmon with his ability to throw the deep ball.
“He throws the vertical ball really well, especially the inside vertical,” Harmon said. “His anticipation of throws is really impressive.”
Also impressive is how Russo has picked up the nuances of the new offense, which is likely to be played at a faster tempo than last season’s offense.
“He has really adapted and learned the offense,” Harmon said. “He has taken ownership of the little details coming up in the offense, and so has Toddy.”
Behind Russo and Centeio is Beatty, who has made great strides, according to Harmon and Carey.
True freshman Kennique Bonner Steward, who enrolled in January and has been participating in spring practice, had his most action during Tuesday’s practice. Harmon said he liked what he saw.