So promising last spring was Grothe, a 6-0, 200-pound redshirt freshman from Lakeland, Fla., that the three remaining quarterbacks on the team were moved to other positions.
Julmiste opened the season as the starter versus McNeese State, but Grothe took over in the second quarter and hasn’t relinquished his claim to the top spot.
“He’s a competitor, who wants to do well, and he cares about his teammates,” said Leavitt, in his 10th season in Tampa. “He wants to be accountable to the whole team, and I think that’s really important.”
Last Saturday, Grothe ran for three touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Bulls (4-2, 1-1 Big East) to a decisive 38-16 win over Connecticut. Against the Huskies, he completed 12-of-15 passes for 146 yards, and ran for 82 yards on 15 tries.
The option-style signal caller now has seven touchdowns on the ground and eight through the air, making him the most productive freshman quarterback in the nation.
John Bunting said of Grothe, “He is in the flow of every single play. He can run a quarterback draw. He can run a quarterback [isolation play]. He can run a quarterback counter.”
Bunting likens Grothe to a prolific quarterback he coached at North Carolina.
“[Grothe] scrambles to throw well, which is how I used to describe Darian [Durant]," Bunting said. "Darian was a great scrambler, but he would scramble very well to throw. This young man does that also.
“He also has very talented receivers, and a couple of them are bigger receivers, which creates mismatches for people. But this guy is making a lot of great decisions. He is not throwing the ball away. He is throwing it to his team, and he’s throwing it very well.”
Although he’s only played in six games, Grothe is already taking aim at the USF record books – albeit the Bulls’ football program didn’t come into existence until 1996. His 306 passing yards at Central Florida on Sept. 16 established a new school record for a freshman. Grothe also lays claim to the top six rushing games by a Bulls freshman quarterback.
A flair for the dramatic, he has led his team to three comeback victories so far this season, and has come close in the two losses.
“The more you play, the more experience you get, and the more things you see,” Leavitt said. “Your decision making hopefully gets better, and that's been the case with Matt. I think he's doing an awfully good job.”
USF will be the second team UNC (1-4, 0-3 ACC) has faced with a predominant option-oriented offensive attack. The other was Furman, which the Tar Heels defeated, 45-42, last month; but not before giving up 521 yards of total offense.
Injury Note: Grothe suffered a sprained right ankle in last weekend's win over UConn. While it has limited his practice time this week, and he had the foot in a boot during interviews on Tuesday, both he and his coach say he'll start Saturday in Chapel Hill.