What is going on with the quarterback situation at Old Dominion? I mean, seriously? I wish I could begin to understand what is going on behind for the Monarchs.
Redshirt freshman Shuler Bentley was named the starting quarterback during spring practice. Bentley, a recruit that was offered by East Carolina and Cincinnati, showed all of the skill to be Taylor Heinicke’s successor. So, what happened between then and now that has Bentley sitting on the bench and wide receiver David Washington at quarterback?
Bentley has struggled to acclimate to football at the FBS level to start his Old Dominion Monarchs career. In his defense, North Carolina State, Appalachian State, and Marshall are no pushover when it comes to pass defense. Even so, Bentley has been unable to find his groove in games versus Norfolk State and Eastern Michigan to start the season.
The main reason for his struggle at quarterback is a completion rate below 50%. Only running backs Ray Lawry and Vincent Lowe have a catch rate over 60% among Bentley’s top seven targets. Those numbers will make it hard for any passing game to find success, but anyone that watches college football knows that a redshirt freshman quarterback putting up the stats of a Brent Stockstill at MTSU is the exception, not the rule.
Part of the blame has to go with a coaching staff that is not doing a good job at getting some confidence for the young quarterback early in games. Pascal (14.2), Duhart (13.3), Little (16.1), and England (10.0) all have yards per catch averages over 10. That is excellent, but at the same time, none of the four have a high catch rate. Why aren’t the Monarchs completing more short and intermediate passes to give Bentley confidence early in the game?
Devil’s advocate: Bentley is being given easy early completions, but is not taking them in lieu of trying to hit the big play. That is something that would be determined between the player and coaches.
In the most recent game for Old Dominion, a 37-34 win over Charlotte, the Monarchs coaching staff decided to split reps between Bentley and wide receiver David Washington. The wideout was a former quarterback and backup to Heinicke in the past. Bentley would get the first series and Washington would get the second series. After a three and out by Bentley in the opening drive, the Monarchs went with Washington for the rest of the game.
After the Charlotte game, the Old Dominion coaching staff was quick to praise Washington’s 356 yard passing performance and name him the starter for the WKU game. So, does that mean that we have seen the end of Bentley at quarterback this season, barring injury?
No one expected Old Dominion to be all that competitive in Conference USA this fall, so one has to worry if the coaching staff has just given up on Bentley completely. Yes, you can say that Washington was excellent with a 300+ yard passing game Saturday. You also have to accept that it was against a team that is playing at the FBS level for the first time this season and did not even have a program just a few short years ago.
So, the question now becomes whether Bentley will continue to try to earn his starting spot back, or if this will be one of the occasions in which a talented quarterback decides that he is not a good fit for the program.
I know that much of this is just speculation, but when a quarterback goes from being the next big thing to sitting on the bench, you have to wonder how things will turn out.