While P.J. Walker’s ascension to the top quarterback last season bumped Connor Reilly down to No. 2 on the depth chart, Reilly sometimes sounds like Walker’s biggest advocate – and helper.
Walker, a sophomore, supplanted Reilly as the starting quarterback five games into the 2013 season. Headed into the 2014 season, Walker, who set TU freshman records in passing yards (2,084) and touchdowns (20), says Reilly’s support has been huge.
“He pushed me the whole summer, and he’s the reason why I got in tip-top shape,” Walker said. “He’s the reason why I’m more vocal to everybody else. He knows the game; he knows the offense. Just him coaching me up, that’s so important. If you don’t know something you want to know that there is someone you can turn to on the team who does – and he’s that guy.”
Named the most improved offensive player following the 2013 spring game, Reilly suffered a knee injury in the 2013 season opener against Notre Dame and never really regained his stride. Walker, a true sophomore, got the starting nod against Cincinnati and never relinquished the job.
It hasn’t been easy for the redshirt senior being demoted, but he’s handled it gracefully.
“It’s very difficult to take the reins and then to have to give them up. But P.J. showed that he deserves to be there and he’s done well,” Reilly said. “But this goes back to when I came in as a freshman and a sophomore and I had Chester Stewart and Mike Gerardi.
“Last year I had Chris Coyer. When he transitioned to tight end he was coaching me just as much as the coaches were trying to help me understand the offense and how to read defenses,” Reilly continued. “So I’ve almost stepped into that role. I mean, we’re a team, we’re a family and we want the best outcome. So if I can help P.J. in the film room be better on the field then that’s what I do.”
Temple coach Matt Rhule has emphasized competition in everything. And apparently it has trickled down to the players.
“The best quarterback is going to play so we are always pushing each other,” Reilly said. “That goes hand-in-hand. The bottom line is that you always have to be ready. Any snap and it could be your day.”
Said Walker: “I’m still going to go out there with the it’s-a-competition mentality. Because if I sit back and become lackadaisical anything can happen. I’m going to go out there with the mentality that there is still a competition for the job because that is what makes me better."