Mike Paulus expected to be in this position. Taylor Heinicke didn't — at least not so soon. The respective starting quarterbacks for William and Mary and Old Dominion traveled different paths as their teams approach the season's midpoint.
Benched for inconsistent and ineffective play three weeks ago, Paulus gets another chance against CAA rival and title contender Delaware on Saturday (6 p.m.) with the news that starter Michael Graham is sidelined with an undisclosed illness.
Heinicke, the touted freshman from Atlanta, was inserted into last week's game against Massachusetts when three-year starter Thomas DeMarco suffered an ankle injury just before halftime. He played well in his college debut and helped the Monarchs to their first CAA win.
With DeMarco still hobbled, Heinicke gets his first start Saturday at Rhode Island (1 p.m.).
"He's had a good week," said ODU quarterbacks coach Ron Whitcomb, who isn't concerned that Heinicke will overthink the opportunity or get rattled by playing on the road.
"I think when the lights go on, this kid performs," Whitcomb said.
Heinicke was 8-for-11 for 119 yards and two touchdowns, as the Monarchs scored 23 consecutive points in the final 17 1/2 minutes to pull away in a 48-33 win. He was poised and avoided pressure several times, including a scramble for a big third-down conversion on the first touchdown drive.
While the Monarchs think they know what they'll get from the quarterback position, William and Mary is less certain.
Paulus completed only 18 of 48 passes for 183 yards in the Tribe's first 2 1/2 games. The senior, in his second year at W&M after transferring from North Carolina, still was recovering from surgery on his throwing shoulder that forced him to miss spring practice.
He earned the starter's job to begin the season, but appeared uncomfortable until head coach Jimmye Laycock pulled him at halftime of the New Haven game in favor of Graham, the recruited walk-on from Charlottesville.
Delaware, last season's co-champ and a national finalist, has quarterback issues of its own. The Blue Hens' game one starter, Trevor Sasek, was injured in the opener. Backup Tim Donnelly was efficient and effective until last week's 31-17 loss at Maine, where he threw four interceptions.
Sasek's recovery and Donnelly's struggles prompted head coach K.C. Keeler to say that the quarterback position was wide open this week. Both are capable, but they'll be facing a W&M defense that's second in the conference in scoring (18.6 ppg) and against the pass (162 ypg), and third in total defense (301 ypg).
Old Dominion, meanwhile, faces a Rhode Island team settled at quarterback. Senior Steve Probst was voted preseason All-CAA. After transferring from Hofstra, when the school discontinued football, he passed for 1,876 yards and rushed for 600 last season. This season, he averages 233 yards per game of total offense.
"A very good quarterback," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "He can do it with his feet or his arm."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun