Undersized Old Dominion quarterback has big stats
Old Dominion junior quarterback Taylor Heinicke wasn't supposed to be here.
His impressive statistics at Collins Hill High School in Atlanta suggested that Heinicke would play in the SEC or ACC, two prestigious conferences with schools located in his backyard.
Heinicke, however, enters Saturday night's game against Pitt at Heinz Field answering questions about how someone with his impressive pedigree slipped through the recruiting cracks.
“Growing up, I wanted to be a quarterback at the next level. I've been working my tail off my whole life for a chance to get there. It was my dream to play in those conferences,” said Heinicke, who won the Walter Payton Award last year as the best player in FCS.
Generously listed at 6-foot-1 in Old Dominion's media guide, Heinicke admits his lack of height resulted in only Old Dominion, Georgia State and Richmond offering him a scholarship despite finishing second and third, respectively, in Georgia high school history in passing yards and touchdown passes in a single season.
“I was 5-11 (coming out of high school),” said Heinicke, who is completing 74.5 percent of his passes this season for 2,088 yards and 14 touchdowns. “I don't blame them.”
Even Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder didn't know what to expect when the undersized quarterback joined the team.
“We brought him in with plans to redshirt him his freshman year,” Wilder said. “But the starter got hurt in our fifth game. Taylor played the second half and led us to victory and started the rest of the year.”
Directing an up-tempo spread offense similar to what he played in high school, Heinicke finished his freshman campaign completing 211 of 307 passes with just one interception — a Hail Mary pass at the end of a game — to go along with 25 touchdown passes. In the postseason that year, Heinicke averaged 307.5 passing yards and tossed a school-record five touchdown passes against both Norfolk State and Georgia Southern.
As a sophomore, Heinicke broke Steve McNair's 18-year-old record with 5,076 passing yards while setting a FCS record with 398 completions. Heinicke led the nation in passing yards, passing yards per game, completions, touchdown passes, total touchdowns and total offense.
In a dramatic come-from-behind 64-61 win over New Hampshire, Heinicke set a Division I-A record in passing yards (730) and total offense (791 yards).
“The funny thing is we weren't even looking at the stats,” Heinicke said. “We were down 24 points midway through the third quarter. Our main focus was trying to win the game. To win the game we had to throw the ball every down.”
Old Dominion also may apply a pass-happy strategy against Pitt. The Monarchs, who will join Conference USA next season, are playing five FBS opponents in their transition year. They lost to their first two FBS opponents — East Carolina and Maryland — by a combined 51 points.
“In that offense, a lot does fall on (Heinicke),” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. “He is athletic, but he is certainly going to try to extend the play and get the ball down the field, a lot like when I was with Russell Wilson (at Wisconsin). When teams do some things coverage wise and they aren't disciplined in their rush lanes, he has exposed people.”
Note: Chryst offered no new information Thursday on injured players, including wide receiver Devin Street and running back James Conner, who are nursing shoulder injuries. But he said he won't hold the players out of the game based on a non-conference opponent. “Too much work goes into it and too few opportunities to play the game,” he said. “If they are healthy and can go, you absolutely go play the game. That's what they love to do. You would never disrespect the game by approaching it any other way.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tough times are in past for Pitt senior guard Kiesel
- Pitt, Louisville square off after unusually long layoffs
- Junior-college DE interested in signing with Pitt
- Ohio linebacker commits to Pitt
- Juco center Nix looks to fill void at Pitt
- In recruiting, Pitt, Penn State make ‘social’ commentary
- Pitt women’s basketball team upends Boston College
- Groat misses ceremony at Duke with concussion
- Pitt’s Johnson to have shoulder surgery
- Pitt offers scholarship to Pine-Richland QB DiNucci
- Pitt point guard recruit trying to bolster 2015 class