Published April 20, 2013
PHILADELPHIA – On his very first play from scrimmage, Connor Reilly rolled to his left, planted his feet and fired a deep pass across his body to the other side of the field.
If there were any questions as to why Reilly had ascended to the No. 1 spot on Temple's depth chart at quarterback this spring, they were quickly answered when the ball dropped deftly into the arms of running back Kenneth Harper for a 50-yard gain.
Reilly continued to churn out big yardage in Temple's annual spring game Saturday, completing 25 of 41 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns to lead the white team to a 34-28 win over the cherry squad.
"When I'm out there I feel like everybody's looking up to me," Reilly said. "I feel like they listen to me. They believe in me. And I believe in myself."
Reilly, a junior, didn't throw any passes in his first two seasons with the Owls but was given the chance to win the starting QB job when Matt Rhule took over as Temple's head coach last December.
And so far, Rhule's pro-style, no-huddle offense has been a perfect match for Reilly, whose arm is "insane," according to wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick. Under former coach Steve Addazio, who left Temple to take the Boston College job, the Owls were more of a running team, which left Reilly without much of a role.
"Just him being a starter, the only difference is more hurting hands and breaking gloves," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm not surprised. I've always seen Connor as a guy who can throw the football."
In Saturday's scrimmage, two of Reilly's TD passes went to Chris Coyer, who was Temple's starting QB for much of the last two seasons but is currently transitioning to a fullback/tight end role for his senior year.
And he's doing it with a smile his face, which has earned him high praise from his coaches and teammates.
"The thing I'll say about him is you're in the middle of a quarterback battle going into your senior year and a lot of guys might have thoughts of transferring," said Rhule, who was a Temple assistant from 2006-2011 before joining the New York Giants coaching staff last year. "I said, 'What do you want to do?' He said, 'I'm a Temple guy.' That's important. He's a captain type of guy."
Coyer certainly showed that he can be a valuable offensive weapon for the Owls when their season opens at Notre Dame on Aug. 31. He finished with three catches for 80 yards, including a 65-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter that helped secure the win for his team.
"I've been a leader on this team for the last couple of years," said Coyer, who is very good friends with Reilly. "And I'm going to continue in that role even if I'm not in the quarterback position."
With Coyer transitioning to a new position, Reilly's main competition at quarterback is Clinton "Juice" Granger. Directing the cherry team, Granger completed 26 of 44 passes for 302 yards, hooking up with Nathan Hairston (six catches, 132 yards), Romond Deloatch (13 catches, 87 yards) and Khalif Herbin (four catches, 71 yards) for touchdowns.
Like Reilly, Granger - who played in seven games last season and made two starts at QB - is enjoying the new offense Rhule has implemented.
"This is definitely more fun," Granger said. "As a quarterback, you want to be able to throw the ball and take shots down the field."
NOTES: Linebacker Nate Smith, one of the team's top defensive players last season, did not play because he was late to a recent practice. . Tyler Matakevich, the 2012 Big East Rookie of the Year, led all Owls with nine tackles. . Colby Perry missed an extra point and Tyler Mayes missed a 25-yard field goal. Both kickers are vying to replace Brandon McManus, the Owls' all-time leader in points, field goals made and punting average.