MURFREESBORO – Sophomore Austin Grammer was named Middle Tennessee State’s starting quarterback for Saturday’s season opener against Savannah State.
But coach Rick Stockstill stopped short of saying Grammer has secured the job for the long term, following a “very tight competition for the last two or three weeks of camp” with redshirt freshman AJ Erdely and freshman Brent Stockstill, a former Siegel standout and son of the coach.
“(Grammer) knows it and all of them do; you’ve got to produce now,” the coach said. “It’s no different than the right guard, left guard and corners. You’re not named the starter for the year at any position, but it’s a great opportunity. I know he’s excited about it. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him that he can do the job.”
Grammer, the only quarterback with game experience, will get his first career start against the heavy underdog Savannah State, an FCS school. Stockstill confirmed his son would be the second quarterback to play and Erdely would be the third.
“All of them had a nice camp. It was a tough decision. There wasn’t a lot of separation between them,” Stockstill said. “But at the end of the day when I evaluate everything for what was critical to me, I felt Austin was No. 1, Brent is No. 2 and AJ is 3.
“… The unfortunate thing is that you can only play one (at a time), and we’ve got more than one good quarterback.”Coaches like Grammer’s leadership, intellect and comfort in the offense. All three quarterbacks were told the depth chart in a meeting with the coach, and Grammer shared the news with his family, friends and former coaches.
“I called my parents and grandparents. And then a lot of buddies — high school, middle school — and little league coaches all texting me and congratulating me. It was pretty cool,” said Grammer, a native of Tuscaloosa, Ala. “… It’s a dream of mine that I’ve been working at for a long time — to start at a big college program. I was definitely ecstatic. It’s a dream come true.”
Last season, Grammer backed up Logan Kilgore, the program’s all-time career leader in touchdown passes.
In his longest playing stint, Grammer rushed for 104 yards in three quarters in a 34-7 loss to North Texas, but he completed only six of 22 passes for 36 yards with one interception. Grammer finished last season with 169 rushing yards and two TDs and completed 21 of 46 passes for 190 yards, one TD and two interceptions.
Stockstill said he wants Grammer simply to run MTSU’s offense and avoid critical mistakes.
“If he comes out of that game Saturday with no turnovers, I’d say he had a heck of a game,” he said.
Grammer went through practice like any other on Tuesday, only he received more reps than in preseason camp.
With a competition that remained close from spring practice to the end of preseason camp, Rick Stockstill said he wants Grammer to feel just the right amount of pressure to perform well.
“I think that’s a good thing. I don’t want him to feel like he’s got to look over his shoulder on every play,” Stockstill said. “I don’t want him thinking, ‘If I have a bad play, I’m going to get yanked.’ But I do want him looking over his shoulder. I want him to feel that heat. I think competition is great at all positions, but especially at quarterback.”
Courtesy of: Adam Sparks
Published by: Gannett Tennessee