In his first year as a quarterbacks coach—he previously coached Toledo's wide receivers while also serving as the offensive coordinator—Jason Candle has been given the difficult task of replacing a highly successful quarterback in Terrance Owens, who graduated this spring. In three full years as the Rockets' starter (Owens came in as freshman when former starter Austin Dantin was injured during a game vs. Eastern Michigan in 2010) Owens racked up 573 completions, 6,951 passing yards, 47 passing touchdowns, 768 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns and most importantly, won 24 games. Owens was a weapon for the Rockets, but now it is time to reload.
Who is going to lead the team out of the tunnel for the season-opener on August 30 vs. New Hampshire? That's the question Candle, and the Rockets coaching staff must answer sometime this summer.
The three-headed race to the top of the depth chart for the starting job is being run by Phillip Ely, Logan Woodside and Michael Julian. The only one was has experience as a Rocket (limited experience but still experience) is Woodside, who last year completed 21 passes for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Ely went 3-for-4 with a touchdown as a backup quarterback for the Crimson Tide before transferring from Alabama to the Rockets in the Spring of 2013.
Everyone loves a good spring game, heck some even get on ESPN. It is just a tease to football fans since the Super Bowl was the last action they had to watching the sport they love. But for coaches it is a huge practice to see their men going full speed for the first time all year.
During the Rockets' Spring Game Woodside was calling signals for the Gold team, and Ely got the nod for the Blue team. Julian did not play quarterback because of a sore shoulder, but did strangely come in and punt some balls. The Blue squad got the win 20-7; Woodside completed 15-of-27 passes for 123 yards and one touchdown on a 41-yard perfect throw to Corey Jones, but had two interceptions. The winning quarterback, Ely, seemed calmer with the offense as he went 17-of-30, with 220 yards and two touchdowns, and no picks.
But a Spring Game only tells us so much, especially when one of the main contenders didn't even throw. Who really are the three quarterbacks that are fighting for the starting gig? What does each quarterback give to the Rockets in skill set and leadership? Who gives the Rockets the best chance to get back to a bowl game? Let's examine.
- 6-foot-1, 198 lbs
- From Tampa, Florida
Phillip Ely was an incredibly talented high school quarterback, U.S Army All-American his senior year, ranked as the 48th best player in Florida, and the 20th best pro-style quarterback in the class of 2011 by Rivals. Ely won a pair of state titles, and was the runner up another year. But he transferred out of Alabama after two seasons in Tuscaloosa, Albama because of the quarterback depth. AJ McCarron was pretty good.
Ely brings a winning mindset to the Rockets. He might not make the crazy highlight that you will see on SportsCenter, but he will move the ball down the field and not give it up on turnovers. That last point is something Candle cited was possibly the most important in the decision making process.
The question for Ely as the starter is he athletic enough to run the Rockets offense? He went to Alabama where they run a pro-style system. During his time in high school he ran a spread offense. Can he still run the offense he ran in high school? Hopefully he will be as brilliant (remember the two state titles).
- 6-foot-2, 210 lbs
- Frankfort, Kentucky
Woodside was a key part of Toledo's highly-touted 2013 recruiting class. The 3-star quarterback was considered a Top-10 prospect in the state of Kentucky, per 247Sports. This past season, as a true freshman, he served as Owen's backup, appearing four games, and leading the Rockets to a win when Owens went down with an injury during the second quarter of the Eastern Washington game. Woodside played well, tossing a huge 81-yard touchdown pass, and finished the game with 14 completions for 185 yards.
The question about Woodside is can he hold on to the ball and limit turnovers? Younger quarterbacks seem to turn over the ball more. If he can show the coaches that he can during practice, I could see him as the starter. He already has the slight advantage of having ran this offense in games in 2013.
Height- 6 foot 5
Hometown- Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Julian is a freak athlete. He played football and basketball in high school, and also ran track and was on the all-state 4X400 team. He was a 3-star quarterback in Toledo's 2013 class, and considered a Top-50 dual threat quarterback in the nation, per 247Sports. With his giant frame, great athleticism and a big and accurate arm, Julian was a great grab for the Rockets. Despite not appearing in any games for the Rockets in 2013, Julian didn't redshirt and is listed as a sophomore, like Woodside.
Julian could be the next Owens. With read options being one of the most run plays in the Toledo playbook, I could see Julian getting a good read, running around the corner with his all-state track speed, and dashing his way to a long gain, or even a touchdown. With his great arm, play action could be his best friend as he could toss a dime over the safety's head.
Julian's hill he has to climb is his injury. Yes, I understand that it is mid June, but an injured shoulder could flare up on any hard hit that he takes. We also don't really know what the injury is, and how serious it may be. Understanding when to slide could help him win the starting quarterback position, but the time on the bench could have already put him far enough behind the competition that he's at a disadvantage.
The coaches have all summer to decide who the starting quarterback is going to be, but right now I am going to pick the next Toledo starting quarterback.
f only we had a machine that we could combine all three to make an All-American. I like the winning mindset of Ely from his high school days, but he could be a tad rusty from sitting out a year and not having game action. Woodside was the backup last year and did lead the team to a win.
There is something appealing about a 6-foot-5 quarterback who has the speed to get around the corner and take it to the house, and the arm to air it out. With his skillset, I think Michael Julian is going to be the next starting quarterback for the Toledo Rockets.