Given a preference, no coach wants to enter a season with a young and inexperienced quarterback under center.
That’s especially true for a program like W&J, who contends for the Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship year in and year out. But while Upper St. Clair native Pete Coughlin may be young, the sophomore gained valuable experience a season ago filling in for injured starter Matt Bliss and W&J head coach Mike Sirianni feels very confident in where the Presidents are under center heading into the 2014 season.
“Pete is talented, has some experience, has had a good camp and gives us the best chance to win,” said Sirianni. “He threw over 100 passes last year and got a lot of reps. We took Matt out of some games early and he started a few games so he really played almost three full games. What people don’t realize is that Matt had an ACL tear and only practiced on Thursday’s so Pete got a ton of reps during practice. That really helped his development as he got more reps than your typical backup quarterback.
Add it all up and Coughlin completed 58 percent of his passes as a freshman for 589 yards and four touchdowns. Coughlin appeared in nine games last season, including starting the Presidents’ playoff game at Mount Union, where he threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns against the Purple Raiders.
But the fact that he was able to get his feet wet as a freshman should put him in a good position to have a very productive sophomore campaign.
“Being able to play some last year helps me a lot,” said Coughlin. “I know I can have success. Even though we lost some people I still feel confident that we can do well and have a good year.”
Coughlin came to W&J after a very successful high school career at Upper St. Clair, something he feels helped the college transition out after playing for a championship on the WPIAL’s biggest stage.
“Obviously there is a different speed to the game being in college, but I think playing in Quad-A prepares you the best,” added Coughlin.
Coughlin has made it a point to improve as a passer as he enters his sophomore season, but the fact that he can make plays with his legs will be big for the Presidents.
Running with the football is something Coughlin does very well and will bring an element back to the W&J offense that was missing at times last season.
Coughlin not only threw for 18 touchdowns as a senior in high school, but also found the end zone nine times on the ground as well.
“His mobility alone makes us dangerous,” said Sirianni. “After Matt got hurt last year we had to call the right pass play as he couldn’t get away with his lack of mobility after the injury. With Pete we don’t have to be perfect with our calls as he can make plays with his feet and get out of the pocket. That’s especially going to be big in the red zone.”
The speed and tempo of the W&J offense makes having a quality decision maker under center a big priority.
If Coughlin turns out to be that guy, the Presidents could find themselves in a very familiar spot at the end of the season- the playoffs.
“I just need to protect the football and try and make plays anyway I can,” said Coughlin. “If I don’t make mistakes turning the ball over, we should be fine.”
Knowing Sirianni’s success with quarterbacks over the years, I wouldn’t bet against Coughlin.
Photo Credit: Post-Gazette