Between the rigors of leading a college football team in the hunt for a conference championship, and juggling coursework, Richmond’s Joe Mancuso has a lot on his plate.
But playing quarterback is what the Blairsville, Ga., native enjoys. Richmond’s the only program that gave him a shot to pursue that passion coming out of Union County High School, and he took it – along with all that comes with the position.
“Quarterbacks have got a lot of responsibility on their shoulders,” said Spiders coach Russ Huesman. “And not just what you do in a game.”
What Mancuso’s done in games this season is impressive, particularly since returning from an early-season injury. Sidelined for the better part of a month, he returned to the lineup full-time on Oct. 12 at Maine.
Mancuso passed for a touchdown and rushed for two more against the Black Hole Defense, sparking Richmond in an ongoing Colonial Athletic Association winning streak. The Spiders have claimed four straight in-conference, with Mancuso putting up the best statistics of his career for three of those games.
The ☀️was shining on 🕷🏈 and @jojocuso1218 yesterday in the victory over No. 20 Stony Brook. Four-straight @CAAFootball wins for the 🕷!— Richmond Football (@SpiderFootball) November 3, 2019
Mancuso had 4️⃣more touchdowns total in the victory, giving him 1️⃣0️⃣passing and 8️⃣rushing scores this year! #OneRichmond pic.twitter.com/LUhPRyNEws
He has back-to-back games completing more than 72 percent of his pass attempts, stacking one season-high for yardage on another; rushed for 95 and 88 yards with four total touchdowns; and has seven scores collectively in pivotal wins against Delaware and Stony Brook.
While missing almost a month of action can be frustrating for a competitor – and make no mistake, Mancuso’s a competitor. He said when playing Call of Duty with teammates, the Spiders are well aware of who picks up the most frags – he used the time away to prepare for this stretch run.
“Making sure I was healthy enough to get back on the field,” he said of his recovery process. “Then when I was, making sure I was consistent with all the plays, making sure all the little things were done right, eliminate mistakes. And you do that in practice as much as you can.”
Committing to practice as much as game day is a cornerstone of what makes a successful quarterback.
For Mancuso, his continuing maturation in captaining the Richmond offense is rooted in his approach from Sunday through Friday as much as his production on Saturday.
“It’s how you handle yourself in practice, how you take coaching, those type of things,” Huesman said. “Joe’s really progressed. He’s listening to our offensive coordinator [Jeff Durden]. When he comes off the field, the communication’s really good.”
Congrats to @jojocuso1218 being named @CAAFootball Offensive Player of the Week!— Richmond Football (@SpiderFootball) November 4, 2019
☑️ 406 Yards of total offense
☑️ Two rushing touchdowns
☑️ Two passing touchdowns
☑️ Another 🕷🏈 win over a ranked opponent#OneRichmond pic.twitter.com/syI4m5aoXx
That intrasquad communication extends beyond the coaching staff and to the roster. Coming into the 2019 campaign, virtually the entirety of the Richmond receiving corps was gone.
The Spiders returned nobody who caught more than eight passes in 2018, and six players with any receptions a season ago. One of them was Mancuso himself.
A new-look rotation has flourished, particularly in recent weeks through the heart of CAA competition. Duke transfer Keyston Fuller’s been electric, on pace to easily exceed 1,000 yards receiving. He has 851 with eight touchdowns heading into the Spiders’ final three games.
Another transfer, Charlie Fessler from Northwestern, has Richmond’s most catches with 51. He’s at 642 yards on the season.
“Keyston can take the top off of any defense, and Charlie’s a big guy who can get open whenever,” Mancuso said. “They brought a lot of leadership to the team, and that makes it easy for me.”
Likewise, a proactive leadership role has been one of the quarterback responsibilities that Huesman lauded in Mancuso’s development.
“As a quarterback, for the most part, you’re the face of the program. I see him a lot encouraging players, picking people up,” Huesman said. “He’s confident, he’s always been confident, and once you start to make plays, your confidence level goes up.”