WHICH QUARTERBACK SHOULD START THIS SEASON?
Since his transfer to Eastern in the offseason, Maty Mauk has been the talk of the town. Fans asked when Coach Elder would announce his starting position, ESPN announcers rightly assumed he would be stepping onto the field for the Colonels first drive and even I assumed veteran Bennie Coney, the man who destroyed defenses last season, could not hold up to Mauk’s prestige.
While all of us assumed, we continuously ignored Coach Elder’s hesitancy to announce the starter. And now we know why.
Maty Mauk is good. His career both in high school and college prove that. And Coach Elder knows he is good—Mauk was recruited by Elder out of high school—but at this moment, Mauk is not working. The world found this out after Mauk went 2/7 and had 57 total yards, 0 TD, and 2 INT in Saturday’s game against Purdue.
Instead, it was Redshirt-Senior Bennie Coney who took control of the Colonels offense—passing for 158 yards and 1 TD. In the Colonels’ third drive, Coney looked just as poised and ready as he did when EKU nearly upset UK. The offense came alive, the sideline got excited and for a moment, the impossible came possible.
The Colonels had fought their way back in the second quarter, going to halftime with a score of 28-18. Similar to other games during opening weekend, the much favorited FBS team was in serious trouble of getting knocked out by its lesser counterpart.
But with halftimes come adjustments, and Purdue’s coaching staff did an excellent job of finding what worked and sticking with it. Meanwhile the smaller roster of EKU found itself in trouble after injury struck Coney and caused a void in the Colonel’s productive offense.
The injury caused Coach Elder to seek help again in Mauk, and Redshirt-Sophomore Tyler Swafford. In Swafford’s one drive with the Colonels, he completed 5/6 passes for 46 yards and 1 TD. It seemed that while everyone went back and forth over Mauk and Coney, Swafford is just as capable to run Angelo Mirando’s offense.
So now Elder and company are faced with a decision they warned media and fans of in the offseason. The Colonels have three quarterbacks who have all proven themselves at the collegiate level—but which one gets the start?
Being passé and stating Bennie Coney may be too easy. The veteran has a better rapport with the offense, seeing as though he has played with them before, and has shown his range of talents during his three seasons.
With Coney in the pocket, the Colonels’ spread offense can add variations that may not be possible with Swafford or Mauk in charge. But with a previous injury, and new coaching staff, Coney still may not get the start.
Rather, Mauk, despite a rough showing in Saturday’s game, could be Thursday’s starter. As a quarterback who has played against higher-level opponents, Elder might have more trust in Mauk’s power.
At Missouri, Mauk played in an offense similar to that of EKU’s and his poor play against Purdue could just be him adjusting to a new staff, team and audience. It is also unlikely that a Division 1 transfer such as himself would not be given more opportunities to shine.
But if neither Mauk nor Coney are up to the task, Elder seems to have found a sturdy passer in Tyler Swafford. The 6-1 Tennessee native shined in the Colonels’ last drive, earning him the first touchdown of his collegiate career. While less experienced than both Mauk and Coney, Swafford showed consistency and patience against the Boilermakers.
Though none of the quarterbacks’ efforts were enough to match Purdue in their first loss of the season, the game left many fans hopeful that each quarterback will push the others to be better in a fight for the start.