By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
Jared McClain enters this season as the Colonels’ “new” starting quarterback.
Well, kind of.
The junior from HIram. Ga., is set to take over full-time under center for record-setting, four-year starter T.J. Pryor.
Still, McClain is no rookie.
“I guess you can say I’ve been through the fire a little bit,” McClain said.
Even though Pryor was EKU’s top quarterback the past two seasons, McClain got plenty of experience. He’s played in 17 games in his career, including every game last season.
In 2012, he started three of the Colonels’ first four games and played key roles coming off the bench in several other games.
McClain will be in the lineup when EKU takes on Robert Morris Thursday at Roy Kidd Stadium.
It will mark the third-straight year that McClain has started at quarterback in the Colonels’ season opener (2011 at Kansas State and 2012 at Purdue).
“It’s not a big deal,” McClain said of starting against Robert Morris. “I’m not going to be too wide-eyed or crazy. But, I am focused and I am ready to go.”
After serving as Pryor’s backup for a couple of seasons, McClain came into camp this year knowing that he was the top quarterback on the depth chart.
He has embraced that role wholeheartedly and his performance on and off the field has left no doubt in the minds of the coaching staff that the junior is ready for the challenge.
“He knows he’s starting now,” EKU coach Dean Hood said of McClain. “He’s getting more reps. (Offensive coordinator Dane) Damron has been on him a little more. So, its a little bit more bad cop. The backup player gets a little more good cop (from the coaching staff). There’s been a lot less of that.”
Certainly more is now expected of McClain — and he’s not shyed away from those new responsibilities.
As long as he stays healthy, the junior will likely take every meaningful snap at quarterback for the Colonels this season (EKU’s No. 2 QB on the depth chart is a redshirt freshman).
McClain knows his time has finally arrived.
“Since the day I got here, I’ve prepared as if I was the starter,” McClain said. “That’s your job as the backup. You never know when your name is going to be called. I don’t look at this as stepping into something I’ve never been aware of (in the past).”
Graffree could play against Robert Morris
The newest addition to the Colonel roster could see some playing time Thursday night in the season-opener against Robert Morris at Roy Kidd Stadium.
Patrick Graffree, a transfer from the University of Kentucky, will likely be in uniform against the Colonials.
The 6-foot-4, 286-pound redshirt defensive lineman from Elizabethtown announced he was leaving UK last week.
“From a conditioning standpoint, there’s no problem,” Hood said of Graffree. “He went through (UK’s) camp. He’s game ready for a physical standpoint. It’s just mentally, (things like) where you line up, how we do we play our defense with block reaction and those type of things. He can get out there and do some stuff.”
Hood said at Tuesday’s press conference that Graffree could get 10 to 12 snaps in a backup role in the season opener.