Three years ago, University of Toledo football coach Jason Candle and then-head coach Matt Campbell had to tell quarterback Logan Woodside he would be a backup to starter Phillip Ely.
As another quarterback competition plays out this fall between two main options, Mitch Guadagni and Eli Peters, plus two talented freshmen that could enter the mix in Carter Bradley and Cross Wilkinson, Candle may have to deliver similar news as a starter emerges from the pack.
But Candle — UT’s offensive coordinator during the 2015 quarterback battle — has not ruled out the possibility that multiple quarterbacks can be used in a given game.
“At Mount Union, we won a national championship with two quarterbacks and we won a national championship using one quarterback,” Candle said Friday after UT’s first practices of fall camp. “In the sense of observing their play, I think that is an avenue that could happen. Hopefully it’s not three or four guys, but if there are two guys that separate themselves and deserve to play, maybe that is a scenario. Is that ideal? Probably not.
“It goes back to Logan Woodside competing with Phillip Ely. You had to tell somebody no. You had to tell a pretty good player he wasn’t going to play. Somebody will emerge. Somebody will separate. That is my hope and I don’t have a date or a timetable. When it happens, it happens.”
So what are the duties of a starting quarterback in Toledo’s offensive system?
Quarterback Mitchell Guadagni looks for an opening under pressure during the University of Toledo football spring scrimmage in April.
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“He has to be able to make plays when he can, and then he’s got to be smart when he can,” Guadagni said. “This offense has a lot of explosive playmakers on the team, so you have to be able to get the ball to them and let them do their thing. At the same time, you have to be safe with it and not create turnovers and just do your job.”
For Peters, the quarterback must be a leader, vocally and by example.
“The quarterback just needs to be a commander and a field general,” Peters said. “He has to know his assignment and get everybody motivated and on the same page. Tempo is a really big thing here. We have a lot of playmakers, but we need to command and keep them on pace.”
Despite the open competition, Candle will approach the quarterback situation the same way he did last season when Woodside came into the offseason as the unquestioned starter.
“For me I am looking for the same things I would be looking for if it was day one and Logan Woodside was coming back,” Candle said. “One year later from last year at the same time, my mind-set hasn’t changed. I’m looking for guys that continually make good decisions with the football and are accurate when they have a chance to throw it.
“At the end of the day they have to make everyone around them better. What’s the formula to that? I don’t really know that yet.”
Peters said he will continue to try to improve his fundamentals and technique in camp.
“As a quarterback, you are never content with your game,” Peters said. “You feel like you need to get better in every aspect. That’s what I’m striving to do, not one thing, but my whole game.”
Both Guadagni and Peters said their first impressions of the freshmen were positive.
“They both are mature beyond their years, and they are both definitely impressive quarterbacks that can really sling the rock,” Guadagni said.
Guadagni has more game experience than Peters as he appeared 10 games last season as a reserve. He was just 1-of-6 passing for 16 yards, but he showed off his running ability with 76 yards on eight carries.
Peters has yet to appear in a game.
For Guadagni this fall camp has a different feel as he sees a big opportunity ahead of him.
“It definitely spices things up and changes the way you go through the day-to-day,” Guadagni said of the competition. “Don’t get me wrong, I was always competing with [Woodside], but you kind of knew in the back of your head that he is probably going to be the starter. The preparation and the mind-set are definitely different.”
Candle said the job ultimately falls on himself and his staff to make sure the starting quarterback is prepared for the season.
“What can get lost here is that it is still the coach’s job to get the quarterback ready to play,” Candle said. “That gets lost in college football and that gets lost in pro football. We’re four weeks away from our first game. There are a lot of evaluation pieces that we have to go through.”
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