Battle for SEMO QB job is already underway

Southeast Missouri State redshirt junior quarterback Joe Pyle wears the "Sign Off" chain following a 61-yard touchdown run against UT Martin last season at Houck Stadium.
Tyler Graef ~ Southeast Missourian

The Southeast Missouri State quarterback room this spring appears as crowded as a Democratic Presidential debate stage and figuring out who will take the Redhawks first snap of the 2020 season isn’t any easier to analyze than that political battle.

“Everything is a competition,” third-year Southeast offensive coordinator Jeromy McDowell said recently of the quarterback situation. “Whether it is in the weight room, running, and obviously practice. Everything that they do is being evaluated.”

That makes for an intriguing scenario, as the fight for the 2020 starting job is already underway on a daily basis.

The most seasoned player, fifth-year senior Joe Pyle, has the advantage of experience on his side, but he also is at a disadvantage.

A late-season shoulder injury, and his on-going rehabilitation, will probably keep him out of spring practice.

Redshirt sophomore Jacob Buie and redshirt freshman Jalyn Williams have the advantage of having spent time in McDowell’s offense and McDowell anticipates each of his quarterbacks having positive moments this spring.

“Every single young man in that room has a high ceiling,” McDowell said. “They have a lot of potential. It’s just which guy is going to take the reins.”

Pyle did just that in the second half of a mid-season home victory over UT Martin last year.

The Redhawks trailed 10-3 at halftime and seventh-year coach Tom Matukewicz sought to exploit the Skyhawks’ defense with more of a running attack from the quarterback position.

The strategy worked, as Pyle ran for a 61-yard score early in the third quarter and Southeast eventually won 17-10.

Pyle is more of a run threat at quarterback than Buie, who is huge (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and has a cannon-like arm.

Also in the mix is Williams, who is a mobile quarterback with a really nice arm that Matukewicz is “pretty excited about,” as well as redshirt sophomore Christian Perez, who just signed with Southeast after spending the past two seasons at Navy and later Louisville.

“Competition makes us all better,” Matukewicz said.

Even though Perez is the newest Redhawk in the locker room, Matukewicz has known him perhaps the longest period of time.

“When he was a freshman (at East St. Louis High School), he came to our camp and he forgot his cleats,” Matukewicz recalled. “I gave him MY cleats. We go way, way, way back.”

Southeast was Perez’s initial scholarship offer, but after throwing for over 1,700 yards and 22 scores as a senior, he chose to attend the Naval Academy.

“I didn’t want to bring a one-year guy in,” Matukewicz said. “Any transfers, I wanted to make sure that they had some years left.”

Perez will have three seasons of eligibility remaining and he has the physical tools blend into the Southeast offense.

“We’ve always had that connection,” Matukewicz said. “He was exactly what we were looking for.

“Playing quarterback is hard, so we need a great one – and maybe two.”

McDowell is watching everything these guys do – even in February – because, as Matukewicz said, the job of guiding this offense is too important to hand over to a guy who doesn’t pay attention to every detail.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if multiple guys have good springs,” McDowell said. “It’s a big deal to hand the keys over to someone new here. It’s going to be a big job. We don’t take that lightly.”

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