Freshman year is always something of an adjustment for most students. It marks their first year away from home – sometimes hours away – and the responsibility and accountability required for their class work is enough to drive anyone crazy.
Now throw film study, team lift, position meetings and practicing with the first-team offense on top of all that. That is what Jonathan Marrero is dealing with, and it does not seem to faze him in the slightest.
The Brighton, Mass. native, who began the season third on the quarterback depth chart, is fresh off one of the best performances in team history. Marrero’s 307 yards of total offense and seven total touchdowns on Saturday were enough to earn him the prestigious Gold Helmet Award – just the sixth such honor in program history, joining SC legends like Chris Sharpe and Josh Carter.
Marrero was 6-of-8 for 163 yards and four touchdowns through the air, tying the school’s single-game record, which was set by Kevin Cahill, another Gold Helmet winner, against UMass-Dartmouth back in 2000.
“[The first half] felt good. It felt really good,” said Marrero. “We don’t always call for the pass, obviously we run the triple option so everything’s a give, read, but usually those safeties crash down the alleys, so every time we get a chance to go up top, that’s what we do.”
Injuries hampered Marrero in the preseason, falling as far back as sixth on the depth chart. However, he worked his way up to third – a feat that would have been enough for any first-year player – behind fellow Gold Helmet winner Austin Bateman and Rob Merckling.
By now most know the story: Bateman went down for the season against Husson, and Merckling was lost against Rochester, thrusting Marrero into the starting role. Raised in the spread offense, the triple option has been an adjustment for the former Brighton Bengal, but one he has taken to.
“Being in this offense, you get the ball 100 percent of the time,” said Marrero. “It’s your choice to either give it or keep it. You kind of gotta go by instinct and read your way through.”
One look at the carry numbers for the Pride in Marrero’s time reveal not only the adjustment Marrero has had to make, but also just how athletic and dynamic he can be. Where Joel Altavesta and Brodie Quinn were the primary options with Merckling and Bateman, Marrero has been keen on keeping the ball and his big play potential has paid off.
A quarterback with big rushing numbers is nothing new for Springfield, where Bateman and Carter led the team in rushing each of the past two years, but Marrero has a different style than his predecessors.
“He’s a reckless kid,” said Coach Mike DeLong. “Athletically, he’s tough to bring down in the open field. He’s a pretty shifty kid.”
Marrero’s 144 yards and three rushing touchdowns on Saturday brought his totals to 379 yards and four touchdowns through five games, good for third on the team in each.
With Marrero being just a freshman, Merckling a sophomore and Bateman a junior, DeLong is in a unique situation looking into the future. However, Marrero is not focused on that.
“My goal is to just stay clean, win every game from here on out,” said the freshman signal caller. “Hopefully next year they keep me in the same spot. I know Bateman’s coming back so I don’t know what’s going to happen with that.
“Just one game at a time. Get a ‘W’ one game at a time.”
With three – possibly four if an ECAC Bowl is in the cards – games remaining this season, Marrero will have time to improve an already impressive resume. But should he continue to throw the ball this effectively, it will be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup.
That is for DeLong and his coaches to decide in 2013, and what an interesting decision it will be.