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USF, Navy showcase a new breed of QB

USF's Quinton Flowers (left) and Navy's Keenan Reynolds are both part of a new evolution of smaller quarterbacks that are leading a surge in college football. PHOTOS SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

The era of the traditional big-bodied quarter    back are  quickly fading. Though  they   still exist, a new prototype is quickly rising to take their place.

This new quarterback mold will take center stage Saturday when USF makes its first-ever trip to Navy for what could be a rushing performance for the ages.

On one side, USF sophomore Quinton Flowers, who stands a shade under 6-feet, is coming off arguably his best career game against Southern Methodist on Saturday which included a program and AAC record 201 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

In his first full season starting, Flowers has thrived in USF’s new up-tempo, spread-style offense. His instincts, speed and elusiveness make him a challenge to tackle. His passing ability, while not a strong suit, has also developed to a level that demands respect from USF’s opponents.

“We (as a defense) adjust to the offense,” defensive coordinator Tom Allen said Wednesday. “If that guy can run, it changes everything. It changes how you attack them and the pressures you bring.”

Allen’s defense will have the daunting task of defending one of the nation’s top mobile quarterbacks in Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, who is on track to break the NCAA’s all-time career rushing touchdowns record (79) held by former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.

As if his 75 career rushing scores don’t frighten USF enough, the senior’s 636 rushing yards rank 47th in Division I-A. His 11 touchdowns are tied with Florida State tailback Dalvin Cook — who rushed for three TDs in a victory over the Bulls in Week 2 — for 12th.

“That’s the kind of guy, if you had to pick on as a defensive coach, we would say, ‘We don’t want to see that kind of guy,’ and offenses are realizing that,” Allen said. “As long as he can throw, at least well enough to make you pay, it’s a tough combination.”

For now, Flowers will rest in the shadow of the wily veteran. But as the highlights have shown, it’s hard to count him out.

Flowers, whose elusive scramble and 22-yard heave to sophomore tailback D’Ernest Johnson in USF’s Sept. 5 opener against Florida A&M got national attention on ESPN’s SportsCenter, continues to prove why this new type of small yet elusive signal-caller is here to stay.

This quarterback mold is becoming a recurring theme in the AAC and teams are finding success.

Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. stands 5-foot-11, SMU’s Matt Davis is 6-foot and Temple’s P.J. Walker — slightly bigger at 6-foot-1, but still not the once typical 6-foot-4 or -5 — has led the No. 21 Owls to a 7-0 record this season.

USF offensive coordinator Danny Hope, who coached at Purdue prior to USF, said it’s not necessarily a new era, but one that has been evolving over the last decade.

“Russell Wilson was phenomenal,” Hope said of the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks quarterback and former North Carolina State and Wisconsin standout.

“I think he’s one of the best players in the NFL right now, and he’s not very big once you get up on him. He’s probably similar in stature to Quinton and similar in some ways, as far as being able to make some people miss.”

While Flowers has a long road to match Wilson’s status, his arm and instincts match up well.

“Size can make a difference, Hope said. “But the bottom line is, if you’re good enough, you’re tall enough. 

“That’s what it boils down to.”

-Follow on Twitter @JacobHoagUSF