Mike Clark admitted the situation he threw quarterback Tyler Jenny into last year was unfair. Asking the Lycoming College sophomore who had never started a college football game to throw 40 passes while trailing in the season opener was a recipe for disaster.
Jenny handled himself quite well despite the less-than-ideal conditions. He completed more than half his passes, he threw for more than 200 yards and he didn't turn over the football.
It was a start which was enough to get the coaching staff and the team excited. Jenny showed a calmness and a poise in that opening-week loss which was enough for him to permanently unseat two-year starting quarterback Zach Klinger as the Warriors' starting quarterback.
The coaching staff was rewarded with an honorable mention all-conference season from Jenny. The quarterback who was asked to do too much in that opening-week game against Brockport State was in total control by the time the Warriors finished their season at Misericordia.
And now, preparing for his second season as the team's starting quarterback, Jenny has the coaching staff, and his own teammates excited.
"He's probably the best quarterback I ever played with," Lycoming wide receiver Matt Atkinson said. "He puts balls on the money all the time. He's going to have a big year."
"I think he is the best quarterback we've had since we've been here," said Clark, who is in his sixth year as Lycoming's head coach. "I think there's two things that go into that: He's talented and he's athletic. The other part is (offensive coordinator) Scott Brisson is a great coach and Tyler is a great learner. What you have is a combination of two guys who are on the same page. You always say your quarterback should be an extension of the coaching staff, and Tyler is absolutely an extension of Scott. That's scary."
The loss to Brockport was a reason for the Lycoming coaching staff to get excited. But it was a Week 2 win against perennial MAC championship contender Delaware Valley which got the staff to raise their eyebrows a bit.
The sophomore went on the road to beat the Aggies, 24-14, throwing a touchdown pass with 6 minutes to go to provide the winning margin and averaging more than 10 yards per completion. He also rushed for a touchdown.
The moment never seemed too big for him. He maintained the calm demeanor which he's always carried with him in making calls to help the Warriors' offense average 4 yards per rush. It really was the coming out party for a quarterback who was expected to be the backup when preseason camp opened in August.
"My favorite Tyler Jenny moment was again Del Val, he had a quarterback sneak for a touchdown and I've never seen him show any emotion like that," Lycoming tight end Greg Kovacs said. "He got up yelling and screaming and it was awesome. I think it's awesome to have a guy who is competitive like that and can get fired up just like anybody else on the team can. Being cool, calm and collected is great, but in the heat of the moment, I want a guy out there who is giving it his all like that."
Jenny remembers coming into training camp a year ago knowing he'd likely be sitting behind Klinger for the second consecutive season, but he prepared like he would be the starting quarterback anyway. And when Klinger suffered a concussion in a preseason scrimmage against Franklin & Marshall, it opened the door for him to be the starting quarterback he had prepared to be anyway.
The biggest change Jenny noticed from playing in practice to the Brockport game was the speed of the game, and just how quickly he had to make decisions. But as the season went on, you could tell the game was slowing down for him.
He led the Warriors to five consecutive wins after that opening-week loss, setting up a homecoming game against Widener which would likely determine the MAC champion. He completed more than 60 percent of his passes in eight of 10 games last year and finished with a passer efficiency of 136.04.
Everything seemed to finally click for Jenny when Lycoming traveled to Wilkes a week after losing to Widener on a last-minute touchdown pass from the Pride. He completed 17 of 26 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns.
It was the kind of week which helped put his name right alongside Delaware Valley's Aaron Wilmer and Widener's Chris Haupt as one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC. What's scary is there's still room for growth, something Jenny himself knows.
Over the course of his 10 games as the Warriors starting quarterback, he didn't just grow physically into a passer who could stretch the field both deep and wide. He became a leader on the field, controlling the huddle, controlling the line of scrimmage and putting Lycoming into scenarios where the offense could best succeed.
"I think that's something, as a quarterback, you need to be able to do," Jenny said. "Something I believe in is trying to be a leader out there. As I got more comfortable it was easier. The guys on the field with me were a big help with that because they supported everything I did along the way."
"He really matured as a quarterback," Atkinson said. "His knowledge of the game is through the roof. He knows who should get the ball and when they should get the ball. We could have a dangerous pass game this year."
When Clark and his coaching staff discussed using Jenny at the beginning of last year, they thought of Jenny as a player who could definitely win them football games. But he was also a risk, a young player with minimal game snaps who may make mistakes which could cost the team a game.
The former was definitely true. His understanding of the offense and how to best utilize each weapon only got better as the season went on. The latter never came to fruition. He threw just four interceptions, never more than one in a game, and he lost just two fumbles.
"Tyler Jenny has a phenomenal understanding of what probably is going to happen if the defense stays the way it looks But if it changes, he's smart enough to adjust," Clark said. "He works hard and he's really intelligent. He's got a good shot to be really good."