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Quarterback Quinton Maxwell (7) warms up during practice in Walter Feildhouse on Monday September 6th. MATT STARKEY|FOR THE POST

Football: It's Quinton Maxwell's team now

The starting offense lines up at midfield and faces toward the endzone for team drills each day. It's like clockwork as they jog out to their positions.

First the linemen. Then the tight ends. Then the receivers split out. 

Finally, Quinton Maxwell emerges from the pack, walking calmly to the line sporting his black jersey with a plain No. 7 on the front and back. There's no questions behind him, there's no other starter to split reps with, there's no side-discussion anymore. 

For now, this is Maxwell's team to lead. 

“He’s got really excellent potential as a quarterback," coach Frank Solich said. "He has the potential to be a really good passer, he’s shown that he throws the intermediate and short ball well. He needs to work a little bit on his deep ball; he’s certainly got a strong enough arm."

It was always supposed to be Maxwell's team this year. But he wasn't supposed to be a veteran, at least not yet.

Last year, JD Sprague and Greg Windham were expected to compete for the starting spot with the loser of the battle playing significant time as the backup. Conner Krizancic was expected to battle for the third quarterback spot as well. 

Maxwell, a redshirt freshman, was simply an afterthought.

But Krizancic retired in June due to concussions, Sprague retired in August due to a shoulder injury, and the quarterback depth chart was left with Windham, Maxwell and Joey Duckworth.

Windham, a redshirt senior last year, opened the year as the starter but struggled after two stellar opening games, and Maxwell took over officially against Eastern Michigan

“My playing time last year, I think it allowed me to mature," Maxwell said. "I have to show that maturity in spring ball. I can’t make the same mistakes I made last year. Those games helped me mature as a player and as a person. Using that experience moving forward will be good.”

Maxwell finished the year with 1,252 yards passing, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. But the 6-foot-3 Rayville, Missouri native lacked confidence. 

He was pulled from the Toledo game late in the season, as well as the Mid-American Conference Championship Game. Maxwell went 0-of-1 passing with seven yards rushing and a fumble against the Broncos before Windham relieved him. Maxwell didn't play the rest of the way, or in the bowl game against Troy.

“He wasn’t used to making mistakes," quarterbacks coach Scott Isphording said. "You play quarterback enough, you’re gonna make mistakes. Aaron Rodgers makes mistakes, Tom Brady makes a couple. Knowing what he can and can’t do within the offense. The biggest thing he has to get better at is converting more deep throws.”

That confidence is what has changed this year. It's the reason why there's no discussion of incoming transfer Nathan Rourke taking starter reps, or even Duckworth, a senior, getting reps with the first team offense.

"We feel very good," offensive coordinator Tim Albin said. "Quinton started five or six games for us as the starter, he played in all the games except the first two. He’s got the most experience, he’s going with the ones.”

It's easy to see the physical traits of Maxwell. A tall, big quarterback that can move well is what coaches dream of. He makes throws that the team cheers for. But the youth still rears its head: overthrown passes, simple mistakes.

He's been in Athens for nearly three years, has seen game time in the MAC title game and already has 1,252 passing yards under his belt. He's also just 20 years old.

“He’s certainly carrying himself with more confidence, which I think came through the offseason and the offseason workouts, being the returner with experience," Isphording said.

Maxwell, a four-sport athlete and third-generation Eagle Scout with a 4.0 high school GPA, came to Ohio not expecting to play from the start. Now, he's about to hit veteran status as a redshirt sophomore.

“It definitely is different (this year), I’ve got a better grasp on the offense," Maxwell said. "I feel more comfortable, which is always a good start. We’ll keep it moving through spring ball.”

Whether or not Maxwell maintains his starting job remains to be seen. He should know the depth chart can turn on its head in a matter of weeks. But for now, it's Maxwell. Not Duckworth or Rourke or Windham or anyone else. 

If Maxwell has anything to say about it, he'll take the first snap against Hampton on Sept. 2. He'll also take the last snap on the first weekend night of December in Detroit.

“Our guy has got to be an all-league player," Isphording said. "The MAC Champ has generally had an all-league quarterback. That’s what we need. He’s got to fill that role.”


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