No easy fixes to Temple's problems at quarterback

Chris Coyer struggled against Rutgers and was benched in favor of Juice Granger, who also failed to ignite Temple's offense in Saturday's 35-10 loss.
Chris Coyer struggled against Rutgers and was benched in favor of Juice Granger, who also failed to ignite Temple's offense in Saturday's 35-10 loss. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 26, 2012

Temple's quarterback situation has been a mess all season long: Starter Chris Coyer has struggled; backup Juice Granger has zero experience; and the third-stringer, Kevin Newsome, might as well be the 10th-stringer.

But sooner or later, the Owls will have to throw the ball to win in the Big East, and Pittsburgh will likely force Temple (3-3, 2-1 Big East) to pass in Saturday's game at Heinz Field.

"From the line to receivers to the quarterback, we all have to get on the same page," Temple offensive coordinator Ryan Day said. "It's been a breakdown in one of those three areas."

Day believes the passing game will improve if the Owls can make a solid effort in all three of those areas.

"Because we are close," he said. "We are close on it. You know what I mean? We've just got to put it all together."

In the meantime, Temple's 116th-ranked passing offense (122.3 yards per game), particularly its quarterback play, is a glaring weakness.

Heading into the matchup with the Panthers (3-4, 0-3), Coyer is completing 53 percent of his passes, worst among Big East starting quarterbacks. The redshirt junior ranks seventh in the conference and 81st nationally in pass efficiency with a 121.02 rating. (The nation's top-rated passer, Alabama's A.J. McCarron, has a pass-efficiency rating of 183.63.)

Furthermore, Coyer is last among conference starters in passing yards (727) and touchdown passes (seven).

Some could argue that Coyer's struggles are due to his not being able to sustain a passing rhythm in an offense that runs 68.5 percent of the time. Others might argue that his problems stem from an inexperienced offensive line or a shaky receiving corps.

Though some of his passes have been dropped, Coyer needs to improve his accuracy and get rid of the ball sooner. He struggled with turnovers in Saturday's 35-10 setback to No. 18 Rutgers.

Coyer was benched early in the fourth quarter after his second fumble was recovered by Rutgers linebacker Khaseem Green and returned for a touchdown.

Granger, who replaced him Saturday, has been sharing first-unit snaps with Coyer at practice this week.

This season "has been up and down. It absolutely has been," said Coyer, who is second on the team with 332 rushing yards. "There have been games where I felt like I've thrown the ball pretty well and I've run the ball pretty well. And there have been games where I felt I was just, just off."

Even though Granger is taking snaps at practice, it might take a lot for him to unseat Coyer as the starter.

Granger, a redshirt junior, is unproven and an unfinished product.

He played in just three games since transferring from Pierce College (Calif.) before the start of last season. The George Washington High graduate's inexperience stood out against the Scarlet Knights. He completed 1 of 3 passes for 7 yards. One of his attempts was nearly intercepted. Granger also had two carries for minus-4 yards.

But he believes he'll bring a lot to Temple's offense.

"I think I can bring playmaking ability and just whatever I can bring to help my team win," he said. "I'm a good all-around quarterback. I can pass, run, run out of the pocket, and make throws downfield."

If given the opportunity, Granger added, he can put the Owls in position to be successful.

Once Kevin Newsome signed transfer papers in February, it was assumed he would battle for the starting position. But the former Penn State quarterback was behind after arriving on campus in August, the day before fall camp began.

These days, Newsome seldom gets reps at practice that don't involve being on the scout team.

"At the quarterback spot, it's hard to battle three guys," Temple coach Steve Addazio said. "That's the battle. There are only so many reps to get ready for a game.

"It's hard to get a No. 2 guy in there. How do you get a No. 3 guy in there?"

As a result, Newsome has been forced to mostly take mental reps when the starting offense is practicing.

"You've just got to be steady in the boat," Addazio said of Newsome. "All of a sudden, we come back to this press conference next week, and he could be the starter. We all know it.

"So I don't have any other easy or simple solution."


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.

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