PRESEASON PRACTICE UPDATE: Quarterbacks Preview
By ODU Athletics
Aug. 16, 2012
"The expectation always at ODU and in this offense is to be in the top of the nation. There's a high level of expectation to go out and execute on a weekly basis," said Quarterbacks Coach and Pass Game Coordinator Ron Whitcomb looking at the 2012 season.
"There's been a set expectation the past three seasons that the quarterback plays at a high level and that's always the level we are going to try to achieve," he mentions.
In three of their four seasons to-date, the Monarch quarterbacks have had one of their own among the Walter Payton Watch List honorees and this season it is no surprise to see sophomore Taylor Heinicke's name listed among the potential award winners.
The sophomore's story is familiar to Monarchs fans. After veteran signal caller Thomas DeMarco suffered a high ankle sprain late in the second quarter against #20 UMass, Heinicke got the start for the third quarter and the rest is history.
Ahead 25-0, ODU surrendered 26 straight points and trailed by one, but led by Heinicke's 119 yards on eight of 11 completions and two touchdowns to give the Monarchs its first ever CAA victory, fans got just a taste of what was to come.
By season's end, he would complete 211 of his 307 passes with just one interception, a hail mary pass at the end of ODU's contest with CAA champion Towson, and 25 touchdowns. When the Monarchs reached the playoffs, he set school records with five touchdown passes in games against both Norfolk State and #3/2 Georgia Southern and averaged 307.5 yards passing in the post-season.
Having first taken the field in game five, Heinicke was just short of having played in the minimum 75% of games played to qualify to rank among the conference and national stats. However, that doesn't stop many from looking where Heinicke's name would appear if his name his name did appear and for a true freshman the numbers are nothing short of outstanding. His 265 passing yards per game would have ranked 18th nationally, his 160.2 pass efficiency rating would place him fifth nationally, and his 305.3 yards of total offense per contest would put his name 10th nationally.
The post-season accolades were plentiful for the first-time Monarch - College Football Performance Awards National Performer of the Year, CFPA Freshman Performer of the Year and winner of the CFPA Quarterback Award, Runner-up for the Jerry Rice Award by The Sports Network, awarded to the National Freshman of the Year, Sports Journal All-Freshman Team, and Third Team All-CAA honoree.
Even with all honors and awards bestowed on him, Heinicke knows that he cannot rest on his laurels for his sophomore season.
"The main thing I worked on this summer was getting my footwork down," Heinicke said noting on what he could do to improve. "I'm getting a lot better and a lot of faster on my feet. I did a lot of drills with Coach Whitcomb and Nate (Ong)."
Senior Nate Ong will back-up Heinicke at quarterback.
"He's doing a great job," said Heinicke of his counterpart. "If you saw him in the spring, he did outstanding."
Ong passed for 210 yards and two touchdowns completing 17 of his 24 passes as his squad won the Spring Game orchestrating a come back with just 24 seconds left in the game. Ong hit Colby Goodwyn for a 20-yard reception and followed it with a 17-yard pass to one of his favorite targets among the wide receiving corps, Larry Pinkard, as time expired.
Ong's time last season was limited to an appearance in the 2011 opener against Campbell as a shoulder injury limited what he was able to do.
"Coach (Ron) Whitcomb and Coach (Brian) Scott really monitored how much I was throwing," he said of the comeback. "We cut back a lot of throwing before practice to try and take some strain off of it. I think its helped out being a lot to work with Coach Whitcomb and trying to throw the ball over the top more, trying to keep the strain off the shoulder. Other than that, it feels a lot better than it did last season."
"I think he's capable of taking over the offense and being proficient," said Whitcomb of Ong.
Clark, a local product from Chesapeake out of Grassfield High School, helped the Grizzlies to three playoff appearances during his scholastic career and also holds a majority of the school's passing records. A freshman he gained experience learning from three-year veteran Thomas DeMarco, as well as Heinicke.
McElroy and Washington also come in with successful high school careers and will look to translate that to the college ranks.
"He's a really smart kid and he's going to be a real good quarterback," Heinicke said of McElroy
McElroy, who takes over DeMarco's number 17, totaled 2,354 yards passing and passed for 16 touchdowns in his career at Milton High School in Georgia while also totaling 504 yards rushing and eight touchdowns
"Colin has picked up the offense very quickly," mentioned Ong on how McElroy is fitting in. "He's a very smart kid and knows what to do with the ball."
Washington meanwhile comes to ODU from Southeast Raleigh High School in North Carolina where he was a Two-time Greater Neuse Conference Player of the Year. As a senior, he completed 157 of his 271 passes throwing for 2,653 yards and a school record 34 touchdowns while also rushing for 1,170 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns
"Very talented," said Heinicke when asked to describe Washington. "Once he gets everything down and once he knows all the read and everything he's going to be a great quarterback too."
"David is just athletic," said Ong. "He can run all around and he's getting better every day. He's working on his fundamentals and doing pretty well."