Aug. 15, 2012
WASHINGTON - New offensive coordinator Vinny Marino's gravelly voice can easily be heard from the stands during the early portion of training camp, as he runs the Georgetown football team's five quarterbacks, including returning starter and captain Isaiah Kempf (Glendale, Calif./Oaks Christian/Bridgton Academy) through footwork and passing drills near the home sideline.
Marino will not be charged with rebuilding the Hoyas identity on offense, as his predecessor was two years ago. Instead, it will be his task to mold an experienced offensive unit, with 10 returning starters, to help the team take its next step toward a Patriot League Championship.
Head Coach Kevin Kelly motivates the team with the challenge to "finish the job", and Marino knows it will take cohesion and execution on the offensive side of the ball to make that a reality. Kempf has started games in each of his three previous seaons on the Hilltop and will be looked upon as the trigger man to get the team's wealth of experienced skill position players involved. But depth behind Kempf is a must during the team's 11-game season, so continuing to develop junior Aaron Aiken and sophomore Steve Skon, who are competing for the back-up job and freshmen quarterbacks Cameron MacPherson and Kyle Nolan are remains important for the success of the team.
That is where Marino comes in. Marino has plenty of credibility, a former quarterback at UConn, who helped mold five All-Ivy League quarterbacks in his past six seasons as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Columbia University.
"We put a lot on the quarterback," Marino said. "We don't want to run bad plays, so I have to do a good job of teaching and the kids have to put the time in. It's not just putting the game in a box, you have to understand the big picture, understand the scenarios that occur within the game. It's a big mental game. We always believe that our quarterback has to put us in a good play if we don't think we're in a good play and so he's got to understand the bigger picture."
So far, Marino has found the Hoyas quarterbacks receptive to his instruction.
"It's been very encouraging," Marino said. "These kids have worked very, very hard. They've put the time in over the summer and I really think that it's going to be a good group. It's nice when you have a quarterback that's also played and been successful, as a starter.
Kempf broke out in 2011, winning the job during training camp before going on to complete 127-for-232 passes for 1,268 yards and 10 touchdowns with a quarterback efficiency of 109.7 in nine games. He was also third on the team with 263 rushing yards and four touchdowns. This will be the third offensive coordinator Kempf has worked with in four years, but Marino believes Kempf's character and work ethic will continue to push him towards improvement.
"Isaiah's been great to work with," Marino said. "He's very competitive, he's a perfectionist, he doesn't make excuses and just works really, really hard. I think his physical skills are very good and he can make all of the throws at this level that we need. He's athletic, he's fun to coach, he's a great young man. He's a smart kid he understands that game."
With Kempf entrenched as the starter, Marino's job becomes to find his backup, as Aiken and Skon continue to compete for the second spot on the depth chart through training camp.
"Aaron Aiken has been improved through the first few days of camp," Marino said. "He's certainly an athletic young man and we have to take advantage of his athletic skills. We're working hard to improve his passing, but I think he understands the bigger picture, as well. He's very encouraging right now."
"Steve Skon was a scout team guy last year and did some good things in the spring," Marino said. "Like Aaron he was up and down, which is why the backup position is wide open. We see ability on both of their parts, so we'll get both of them reps with the ones to see what they can do agains the best competition." The Hoyas also welcome two freshmen, in MacPherson and Nolan to training camp and have been impressed by what they bring to the table.
"We're encouraged by the two freshmen, Kyle Nolan and Cameron MacPherson," Marino said. "I recruited Kyle in the past and he has worked hard to throw the football better. For a big kid he is very athletic. Cameron, for a big kid, he is very athletic and I think he has a great football pedigree and has a real presence about him. Those two guys are very intriguing for the future."
Presently, the Hoyas will look to improve upon its offensive output from a year ago, an unenviable task, after GU finished with its best offensive output in over a decade. The Hoyas were also the nation's third best team in red zone efficiency, converting on 94-percent of its trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Both trends they hope to build on with an offensive philosophy that will be tailored to the talent they have on the roster. After the first week of camp, Marino has a good sense of where his offense will be trying to move for the 2012 season.
"We want to have the ability to throw the ball down the field and I think we have quarterbacks that can do that," Marino said. "I also want to be able to run the ball and be physical and I think that's something that we're going to pride ourselves on in the run game. We have four components and our kids are working hard to get good at those four components. It will make us an offense that will be good at the ground game and then be able to open it up and go downfield."