Robert Morris turns to Abbott for a spark

Chris Mueller, Sports Editor

Robert Morris offensive coordinator Darrin Hicks announced Monday that Derik Abbott will be getting the nod at quarterback this weekend in place of Luke Brumbaugh.

The decision couldn’t have come at a more important time for the Colonials coming off a bye week with the team’s 0-and-4 record looming as Monmouth visits Joe Walton Stadium on Saturday.

For Abbott, it’s an opportunity to be the sparkplug for an offense that hasn’t been able to put points on the board. He’ll now make his first career start on none other but Homecoming day, where a full crowd is expected and all eyes will be on him.

“As a quarterback, it’s your job to be a leader. You have to be a leader,” he said. “You have to be a field general out there and command your people. Whether it’s motivating guys, correcting stuff, you’ve got to be the person if all hell breaks loose, they’re going to look to.”

It hasn’t been an easy path for Abbott up to this point.

He began his Robert Morris career in 2012 sitting behind veteran Jeff Sinclair, learning the ropes from a former NEC champion quarterback. It looked as if the staff was grooming Abbott to take over the following year before news broke that Penn State quarterback Paul Jones was transferring to RMU with two years of eligibility beginning in the Spring of 2013.

The Jones-led Colonials ended last season with a 5-and-6 mark, however Abbott sat out as a medical redshirt after tearing his labrum. The shoulder injury was devastating, required surgery and threatened to possibly end his career.

Not taking ‘no’ for an answer, he lived in the training room after the operation. The announcement of Jones being academically ineligible for 2014 paved the way for what most thought was Abbott’s golden ticket to run the show.

Until Brumbaugh beat him out during preseason in a heated competition that wasn’t finalized until a week before the Colonials’ opening game against Eastern Kentucky on Aug. 29.

“I go back to when we had chosen [Luke] to be the starting quarterback,” said Hicks. “We had a sit down and I talked to [Derik] and told him you never know what’s going to happen during the season, I need you to prepare yourself like you’re the starter, and he did everything we’ve asked him to do and more.”

Abbott handled the decision maturely. He took it like a man, and not once became a distraction even after Brumbaugh’s repeated struggles through loss after loss.

“When [Luke] was named the starter and we struggled out of the gate, I never sat there and petitioned for me to start. I always wanted to make sure I was there for [Luke] and help him anyway that I could because you put team first,” said Abbott. “But at the same time, I knew I had to get ready for myself, and prepared every week like I would be the starter.”

Preparation is something he prides himself on, falling back to habits formed as an All-District quarterback at Freedom High School in Orlando.

“I had a great coaching staff in high school that really knew how to prepare me. I would watch film with them constantly,” Abbott said. “Whenever I would have a customer service class or whatever it was, the Teacher Assistant was my offensive coordinator; we did that on purpose. I would sit there and watch film with him.”

As Abbott described it, the separation stems from preparation.

“I think he’s a guy that is ultra-prepared,” said Hicks. “When we decided to make this switch, he was the first guy in the office. He gets there about 15 minutes after I do, he spends a lot of time with us going over film and bringing ideas and doing those types of things. He’s a coach’s son, and definitely prepares like a guy that’s been doing this his whole life.”

With Abbott in command, the offense is obviously looking for steady improvement. He poses multiple threats from the position in his accuracy and mobility. In practice this week, he’s seemed a lot more comfortable in the pocket than Brumbaugh and has looked sharp with the increased reps.

A change at quarterback is not the definitive answer to the offensive woes, but the move is a step in the right direction.

“I don’t think I need to do anything out of my game,” said Abbott. “Just play my game and obviously improve as an offense. Keep doing what we’re good at. The best quality of a quarterback is being a game manager.”

His first test comes against a Monmouth defense letting up 22 points and 236 passing yards a game. The Hawks gave up 344 yards through the air to Duquesne two weeks ago, but then responded last week in a last-second win over Lehigh.

This is what football’s all about for Abbott. It’s been a long time coming.

“When you get your opportunity,” he said. “You need to make the most of it.”