With the Bulls preparing for their nationally televised matchup against No. 23 Rutgers on Friday night, Matt Grothe is the starting quarterback.
Since replacing an injured Pat Julmiste in a 41-10 victory over McNeese State in the first game of the season, Grothe has made noticeable improvements at his position. He has shown incredible poise for a redshirt freshman and is gaining confidence with every snap.
It’s almost comical, however, that head coach Jim Leavitt goes out of his way to not hand the quarterback position over to Grothe completely. Even though Grothe is the starter this week, Leavitt gives the impression that Grothe is one interception away from being back on the sideline.
This isn’t how an up-and-coming quarterback talent such as Grothe should be treated.
Grothe has proved to be a presence on the field and in the huddle, leading the Bulls’ offense efficiently. He has faced and passed most of the challenges that have been thrown his way.
With two fourth-quarter comebacks against Florida International and Central Florida, Grothe has shown the ability for late-game heroics. He just fell short of a third fourth-quarter comeback on the road at Kansas last Saturday.
Facing a nationally ranked Rutgers team is just another challenge for Grothe and another opportunity to grow as a quarterback.
He has gained the respect of his teammates with his work ethic during the spring and summer workouts and is quickly gaining the respect of opposing defenses. It’s time for Leavitt to give him the same respect.
“He’s a talented player, and I saw that when we were going against him in practice,” senior linebacker Stephen Nicholas said. “So I expect him to be playing the way he is, and with some more experience he will become a top quarterback.”
No one on the offense – or the team for that matter – will be bothered if Leavitt names Grothe as the starter for the rest of the season. Grothe’s play has shown he is worthy of being the starter, and I believe Julmiste has seen the writing on the wall.
Julmiste has actually been supportive on the sideline during games and also helps Grothe in practice. Since Grothe is the quarterback for the future, this is a perfect scenario for the young quarterback.
The smart move for Leavitt is to show he has more confidence in Grothe and reassure Grothe he is the quarterback to lead this team this year. Grothe will be at USF for at least the next three years and is sure to get better with experience.
The early numbers Grothe put up heading into the Kansas game last week were comparable to the first three games of Marquel Blackwell. Blackwell, who is considered the best quarterback to ever play at USF, will be the measuring stick for Grothe his entire career.
Grothe was 3-0 in his first three games, throwing for 647 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. Blackwell was 2-1 in his first three games, throwing for 359 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
If this isn’t enough evidence to convince Leavitt to give Grothe the quarterback position permanently, there is not much more Grothe can do. For Leavitt to keep Grothe on a string and have him look over his shoulder after any sort of bad play or decision can only hurt his confidence.
The future is now, and Grothe is the leader of this offense.
If only Leavitt could admit it.