Connor Reilly has never started a game for Temple, but Reilly made his mark on the Owls in every single contest over the past two seasons.
It was Reilly who led his teammates onto the field before kickoff, waving an American flag his father flew with as a squadron commander in the Army on several missions in Afghanistan. After the euphoria of each moment, Reilly retreated to the sideline, clipboard in hand, headset on to signal in the plays.
He never got much of an opportunity to win the starting job. For one, Reilly was relatively new to football, having picked up the game during his sophomore year of high school. For another, former coach Steve Addazio emphasized dual-threat quarterbacks in his spread system. Reilly was more of a pro-style kinda guy with a rocket for an arm, thanks to his baseball background.
Indeed, Reilly continued to play both sports last spring as Chris Coyer took the starting quarterback reps. And he continued to play both sports this year, too (though he has taken a two-week hiatus to focus on football). A new offensive emphasis under coach Matt Rhule, finally gave Reilly his opportunity.
Reilly's rise from last on the depth chart to first has been one of the biggest spring surprises in the league.
In the spring game this past weekend, Reilly went 25-of-41 for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Coyer -- the guy who used to get the signals from Reilly -- caught two of them in his new role as tight end/H-back.
Those are quite impressive passing numbers, when you consider just how poorly the Owls threw the ball last year. Yes, Temple was a run-first team. But when the Owls needed to pass the ball, they simply could not find any consistency. Temple ranked No. 116 in the nation in passing, and its quarterbacks completed an average of 52.5 percent of their passes. Only nine teams had a worse percentage.
Run-oriented Navy and Air Force posted better completion percentage numbers.
Perhaps more impressive, though, are these comments about Reilly from Rhule following the game Saturday: "I think what you see is, you see our team when he's out there kind of rallying around him and believe he's going to make a play."
Quarterback was one of the biggest question marks on this team headed into the spring, but it appears as if a guy who was not even in the discussion back in March has solidified his status atop the depth chart. Whether he continues to carry the U.S. flag onto the field this season remains to be seen.
But there seems to be little question that Reilly is a guy to root for when the season begins.