Amesbury football coach Thom Connors said he had "the talk" with junior Matt Talbot yesterday afternoon.
The coach called Talbot in for an office visit, and laid out his expectations for the first-year quarterback.
"I told him, 'You're not a captain; however, you have to assume the field general role,'" Connors said. "'You lead the way for us. You have to be the guy we count on and turn to.
"'If anyone has a question in the huddle, you answer every question. You need to be respected in and out of school. As the starting quarterback, that's the responsibility that comes with it.'"
That 20-minute talk is reserved for Connors' starting quarterback each year. Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano figured to have a similar talk with anointed first-year starter Connor Wile at some point during this preseason.
The Amesbury and Newburyport football teams will both have first-year starting quarterbacks this season for the first time since 2009. That preseason, Matt Mottola earned the starting job in Newburyport before giving way to Ryan O'Connor at midseason. Tyler Lay took over in Amesbury, on the heels of the school's Super Bowl title in 2008.
O'Connor was 10-6 as a starter, compared to Lay's mark of 8-14. However, both quarterbacks are credited with bringing stability and leadership to their respective programs over the last two seasons.
Now, Wile and Talbot are expected to bring the same qualities to their respective positions.
"The coaches have been talking to me about that," Wile said. "They want me to be a leader on the field. I can't get down on myself if I throw an interception or a bad throw. I have to be more vocal. I can't show disappointment because the whole team takes after that."
Wile and Talbot went about earning starting jobs in different fashions. Last fall, Gaudiano said Wile was in competition with O'Connor for the starting job during the preseason. Wile finished a close second behind O'Connor, and converted to defensive back for his sophomore campaign.
This fall, it was a foregone conclusion that Wile would earn the starting position. He has the big-game pedigree. As a freshman, he played defense on the Clipper ice hockey team that played for a state championship at the Garden. Last spring, Wile was the starting catcher for the state champion baseball team.
"All of that's been a good experience for him," Gaudiano said. "I don't think pressure worries him. His biggest strength is his arm, in (the coaching staff's) view."
Talbot, on the other hand, didn't learn that he had earned the starting job until this week. He was part of a four-man open competition for the job this fall, along with senior Pat Wilson, junior Tommy Connors and sophomore Mac Short. In Amesbury's first preseason game against Greater Lowell last month, each of the four quarterback hopefuls played one quarter behind center.
Talbot earned the starting job by the third preseason game last week, despite the fact that, prior to this season, he hadn't logged significant time at quarterback since middle school.
"For us, we're going with a kid who has played very little quarterback," Connors said. "We had four viable candidates, and that made it kind of fun. The four guys vying for the job were extremely helpful to each other. The competition was fierce, but they all supported each other."
Talbot is a two-year starter in basketball. Connors, who also coaches basketball, invoked the name of former Amesbury Super Bowl quarterback Jared Flannigan when searching for a comparison to his first-year starter.
"He does a lot of things pretty well," Connors said. "He throws well, and we can fine-tune his passing skills. He's the type of kid who is a threat to run the ball, which I've always liked. Going back to Flannigan, he can throw the ball or decide on the run to keep it. He can do both."
On the other hand, Wile's style is similar to that of Newburyport's last two quarterbacks, Joe Clancy and Ryan O'Connor. Gaudiano believes his first-year starter at QB has a chance to step into a pass-heavy system without missing a beat.
"Connor fits in with what we've been doing with the passing game," Gaudiano said. "He's a drop-back guy. He's been here and knows how we do things."
Wile said he has focused on increasing his foot speed this preseason — but not for the purpose of becoming a threat to run. He's working to increase the speed of his drop so that he's in position to throw quicker.
"I'm ready," Wile said. "I shouldn't be as nervous for our opener against Lynnfield (Saturday) because I've played big games before. So hopefully I'll be more comfortable than if I'd never started before."