Wonder who's going to start for the Temple Owls this season? Well, as of Wednesday morning, coach Steve Addazio had sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer listed No. 1 on the depth chart…at holder.
With just eight days left until their Week 1 kickoff against rival Villanova in the 3rd annual Mayor's Cup, the first year head coach stood strong Wednesday and refused to name a starting quarterback during the team's annual Media Day.
When asked if he was ready to make his announcement, Addazio declined, stating instead, "I could probably tell you now, I'm not going to have anything to say about that…probably until next week."
The uncertainty is hardly anything new for Temple fans, who last year saw both Chester Stewart and Mike Gerardi run the offense for parts of the 2010 season.
Given the recent news that even the aforementioned Coyer has taken a fair share of the reps under center, Addazio at least made it clear that the race is between just "two guys;" unfortunately, he would stop short of naming exactly which "two."
"I want to evaluate them as long as I can without feeling that I'm taking away from our team," said Addazio. "Quite frankly, I can tell you, I'd be okay with either one of them right now. It's a good problem to have."
"But I kinda' like the fact that they keep getting better. They keep getting better. So why would I want to do anything to stop that growth right now?"
Though he did say his decision wouldn't come until "next week," the Thursday night schedule pushes the team's "traditional game week" ahead two days. Consequently, come Saturday, the first teams should be ironed out and practicing against one another, meaning there will obviously be, as Addazio put it, "'A Guy' taking snaps with the No. 1's." Still, judging by the coach's comments, even that may not reveal who will start against 'Nova September 1st.
Either way, if Addazio believes in Stewart and Gerardi and even Coyer to the extent he's claiming, it won't be shocking to see multiple quarterbacks on the field this year. Though he insists that he won't run a two-QB system—labeling the strategy "unproductive"—Addazio doesn't seem like the type of guy to shy away from yanking his quarterback if he sees it as in his team's best interests. Stressing that he's looking for an "it factor," one he might not find until—as he hypothetically suggested—"Week 3," the QB saga doesn't figure to end any time soon.
Thankfully, in spite of all the drama under center, the backfield remains promising in the hands of running back Bernard Pierce.
Pierce, who made it his job to break university rushing records as a freshman, was hampered for the better part of his sophomore season thanks to an unfortunate assortment of injuries. Now, fully healthy, the Glen Mills product is looking forward to moving on without the burden of last year's "Hunt for the Heisman" marketing campaign.
After agreeing with one reporter's suggestion that last year's hype machine was something "he could do without," Pierce stressed that his primary focus is on staying healthy for the entirety of the season, a feat he's yet to accomplish in his two years at Temple.
"Last year, I would say, I just wasn't as prepared for the season. I was caught up in the hype and not doing what I needed to," said Pierce. "We want to win the division and the [Mid-American Conference] championship, and, for me, individually, I want to stay healthy. I am going to stay healthy."
Injuries or no injuries, billboards or no billboards, the junior running back certainly has the backing of his new coach.
"I think he's enjoying going about his business without all these expectations" said Addazio. "He's absolutely as talented or more than most all that I've been around, [but] he's got to show it through the year now. He's got to be able to sustain, to play through injuries, to do all of those things you need to be successful."
And though he's surely anxious to make up for the last year's understandable let down given the all-too-unreal expectations thrust his way, Bernard may be running with a chip on his shoulder in 2011 for an altogether different reason.
Of the 72 eligible teams in 2010, Temple (8-4) was one of just two not to receive a year-end bowl invitation, a fact clearly not lost on Pierce. "It hurt. it hurt a lot. A couple other teams were like 6-5 of 6-6 and still went to a bowl game. I think we deserved to go, but we didn't. So we're all working hard to make sure that we get there and that we are eligible for a bowl game."
Led by Pierce, and whomever coach Addazio selects to hand him the ball, the Temple Owls hope to take their first step back to a bowl game next Thursday against Villanova.
We'll have a Mayor's Cup preview on the site next week. In the meantime, maybe give some thought to embracing a college football program less than three and a half hours from your house.