When you project player performance for an upcoming season, a good place to begin is to take a look at what that player accomplished during the past season. Was that player an all-conference performer; a statistical team or conference leader; perhaps an underclassman that jumped on the scene late in the season and big things are expected moving forward? Well, to be frank, Phillip Ely's 2014 season for the Toledo Rockets offers none of those surefire signs that greatness is looming in 2015, so how does a guy that completed just 41 passes last season land at No. 32 on our list this preseason?
First and foremost, Ely came out of the 2014 summer camp as the Rocket's starting quarterback, out-dueling both Logan Woodside and Michael Julian in a contested QB competition. Ely would open the season against FCS power New Hampshire throwing for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns in in a convincing 54-20 win. However, an ACL injury in just the second game of the season against Missouri derailed what was a promising start for the Tampa, Florida native and transfer from the University of Alabama. Ely would miss the Rockets' last 12 games of the season as well as all of spring practice while rehabbing for the 2015 season.
When trying to project Ely's numbers for 2015, look no further than what backup Logan Woodside accomplished in 2014. With Ely on the sidelines, Woodside admirably filled the starting role, going 8-2 as a starter, while throwing for over 2,200 yards and 19 touchdowns against just 8 interceptions. Woodside concluded the season by leading the midnight blue and gold to victory in the GoDaddy Bowl 63-44 over Arkansas State.
If Ely is named the starter for 2015, he will also benefit from a strong contingent of offensive weapons surrounding the quarterback. All-conference performers including running back Kareem Hunt and wide receivers Alonzo Russell and Corey Jones all return for what should be a potent Rocket offensive attack.
For Ely to fulfill the lofty expectations many Rocket fans and the contributors here at Hustle Belt feel he is capable of, he will first have to once again outlast Woodside as he did in 2014 to be named the opening day starter. Ely will also have to show head coach Matt Campbell that he is fully healed and ready to expand upon what is a very small, yet effective sample size.