After a three-man competition that spanned the entire offseason, Toledo coach Matt Campbell announced today that redshirt junior quarterback Phillip Ely will start at quarterback in the Rockets' season opener Saturday against New Hampshire. Ely, eligible for the first time as a Rocket this season after sitting out last year following a transfer from Alabama, beat out last year's backup quarterback, sophomore Logan Woodside, and redshirt freshman Michael Julian.
In a press conference today, Campbell explained that while he considers all three signal callers to be viable options, Ely turned in the steadiest performance throughout the offseason.
"His body of work will have been the most consistent going into game one," Campbell said. "Phillip certainly has earned the right to start for us in week one."
Ely, a 6-foot-1 native of Tampa, Fla., made six appearances as a backup to AJ McCarron during his redshirt freshman season on Alabama's 2012 national champion team, but transferred to Toledo the following season. He joined the Crimson Tide as a prized recruit, ranked 20th among pro-style quarterbacks by Rivals.com after winning two state championships with Florida powerhouse Plant High School.
In his press conference, Campbell alluded to some of the traits that made Ely a sought-after prospect, calling him "a great decision maker with the ball in his hands," "extremely accurate," and "a guy that certainly can make plays with his feet when he needs to."
For those that follow Toledo, the move isn't likely to cause a lot of surprise. While Woodside performed admirably last season in spot duty and Julian has tantalizing physical tools, Ely's pedigree and experience with a powerhouse Alabama program made him appear to be the likeliest starter in his first year of Rocket eligibility. Further, a solid performance in the intrasquad spring scrimmage (17-for-30 with 220 yards passing and two touchdowns in a 20-7 win for his Blue team) seemed to put Ely in the driver's seat for the starting gig, and now it's official.
Campbell did not rule out Woodside or Julian ultimately seeing the field at some point in the season, saying he and his coaching staff "have the utmost confidence" in all three players. Ely, for his part, seemed to relish the opportunity to participate in the open competition.
Ely on the QB battle "That's what you love about this game. How can you not love it? I am a better QB today because of it" ToledoTough— Toledo Football (@ToledoFB) August 25, 2014
Now, with a new starter installed just days before the opening of a new season with major expectations, Rockets fans will hope that Campbell picked the right player of the three.