25, 2005 - As the impending college football season revs
its engines, there are still a number of important QB races that
have yet to be determined. Here is the latest progress for quite
a few, even some who are national contenders. Decisions concerning
who will assume the role of “Field General” always go
a long way toward defining the entire team’s campaign, so
realize that QB developments continue well into the season and are
not being defined here as much as they are being updated now for
the impending start of the season.
Since last season's
starting QB Wyatt Sexton was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, a scramble
for the job between two highly touted redshirt freshmen began. Since
then, Coach Bobby Bowden has continually referred to Drew Weatherford
(drop-back) and Xavier Lee (dual-threat) as both being his number
one. Two weeks into August camp and there was still no clear-cut
choice. Lee struggled at times throughout early scrimmages. When
he gets pressure he tries to overly guide the ball instead of relaxing
in the pocket and just letting it rip. But if one of the QBs moves
ahead on one day, the other seemingly takes over the next. Making
some leeway this past week as to being named the starter was Weatherford,
who went 11 of 16 for 288 yards in Tuesday's scrimmage while Lee
was on the bench nursing a sore shoulder. Bowden still continued
to state both were co-number ones. Odds are that Weatherford will
draw the start versus Miami, with Lee coming in even before the
first quarter ends. Whether coaches welcome a dual-QB system or
not, that's what they have. Look for both to play all season long
unless one of them finally seems to hit a groove.
it might be this guy and the next week the next guy. I don't know
if this will end up like that but it could." - Bobby Bowden.
Last year it
was the “Joel Statham Show” for most of a disappointing
season until the final home game versus Wake Forest. Hollenbach
took over and played mistake free football in the victory, which
carried over to spring. Coach Friedgen named Hollenbach the starter
at the close of April and the momentum continues. Injuries have
hurt this team through the month of August, but the gleaming surprise
has been the accuracy and poise of Hollenbach. The team appears
to be rallying around the junior QB. He won the job in the spring
because he doesn't make as many mistakes and he continues to impress
in his decision making. Friedgen even went so far as to say he hasn't
seen a Maryland QB this accurate since Scott McBrien versus WVU
in the Gator Bowl…such high praise from a picky offensive
coach. Joel Statham is currently running with the second unit while
true sophomore Jordan Steffy has struggled to play through a spring
injury that sidelined him. There is no question who the starter
is on opening day versus Navy.
if there has been a bright spot in this camp, it's Sam Hollenbach."
- Ralph Friedgen
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Last fall Jay
Davis struggled, which led to freshman Marcus Stone getting thrown
into the fire. With a week to go before the huge home opener versus
Virginia Tech, Davis is the clear-cut starter. He has taken charge
of this team and has the mindset of a leader. Hopes are that direct
comparisons to Philip Rivers are a thing of the past with the fans
- no budding talent needs his patronage to cast such a shadow, for
it can only lead to disappointment. Erasing memories of the many
interceptions (that critics point to) from 2004 (five INTs versus
Clemson and three INTs versus both Georgia Tech and Ohio State)
will prove difficult. But Davis has been determined this summer
to do something about it - he hit the weight room and worked tirelessly
on mechanics. Preseason scrimmages have shown genuine improvement.
Last Saturday's action had the senior going 11 of 14 with one TD.
Marcus Stone is still on his heels and all continue to improve with
the competition. But this is Davis' team, even if he was required
to lead while sitting on the bench.
has taken charge of this football team. There is absolutely no doubt
in my mind that he has taken that role and he has run with it. Not
only with the offense but with the whole team.” - Chuck Amato
No other Division
I-A university has as many possibilities when it comes to locating
a starting QB as does the one in Morgantown. Four players were considered
viable options to replace all-Big East QB Rasheed Marshall just
only three months ago, even though two of them (J.R. House and Adam
Bednarik) were not even throwing the ball due to shoulder injuries.
At 25 years of age and four surgeries later, House came in this
August after being released by the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club
after six seasons in their minor league system. An operation to
repair a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder has made the
task of competing difficult. He just doesn't have the arm strength.
The second option, Dwayne Thompson, will likely swing to a wide
out position at some point. In turn, the race has been narrowed
down, and it is now between Adam Bednarik and Pat White. Coach Rich
Rodriguez has stated both could be “co-starting” QBs
on opening day as the Mountaineers visit Syracuse, a literal impossibility
but the point is well-made. Expect to see both..."options 1A
and option 1A", as Rodriguez calls it. Redshirt freshman Pat
White is their speed merchant (4.35 40-yard dash speed). In this
flex no-huddle offense, the QB will continue to carry the pigskin,
and therefore White will be an oft-utilized weapon. But Bednarik
has a better presence in the pocket and maintains more patience
while waiting for receivers to break free. White tends to take off
running under the same circumstance. Bednarik is currently running
with the first team and is the likely starter for Labor Day Weekend.
We'll see both.
be Adam-slash-Pat at number one and J.R.-slash-Dwayne at number
three." - Rich Rodriguez
School All-American Anthony Morelli brought glowing credentials
along with superlative skills and size to the Nittany Lion roster
in 2004. With Zach Mills now departed, most feel if Joe Paterno
is to get this train moving in the right competitive direction,
Morelli would have to be that engineer - QB play has haunted the
Lions through their recent back-to-back losing seasons. Hold on!
Senior Michael Robinson won the starting job this spring and continues
to hold the starter’s role. Robinson spent the entire off-season
focusing on one position as opposed to year's past of playing multiple
positions (RB/QB/WR/PR). He has dropped 15 pounds to get quicker,
but Robinson has a long way to go to prove his critics wrong. Morelli
has a gun for an arm, and Paterno has stated that he will see action.
Morelli has taken about a quarter to a third of the reps with the
first team. Sometimes he will wait too long with his reads or double
check once lined up, which has caused confusion with the OL. Robinson
appears more relaxed and confident while making better decisions.
If he struggles, the fans are sure to demand a change or the disgruntled
chants of "Joe must go" will echo throughout the walls
of Beaver Stadium.
now, he's (Morelli) behind Michael Robinson, but he can't be satisfied
with that decision because there are going to be a lot of times
when Morelli is going to be in there." - Joe Paterno
time in Norman. Who replaces former 2003 Heisman winner Jason White?
Everyone was told at the close of spring that the QB race would
continue into the fall. That's an understatement. Longshot Tommy
Grady has decided to transfer, and the fallout is underclassmen
Paul Thompson and Rhett Bomar fighting for top honors. The decision
as to the starter is expected any day now, and even the coaches
are stuck between the two. QB Coach Chuck Long will sit down with
both QBs individually and explain this decision to each once they
arrive at one. So far, both have been kept in the dark to some degree.
Accordingly, the possibility of a two-QB system is likely at some
point of 2005. Thompson appears to be the more consistent passer,
using short, safer passes in an effort to keep the yardsticks moving.
Bomar is more apt to take a risk and throw deep, thus making more
things happen – both good and bad. Considering how opposing
defenses are likely to stuff the box in an effort to slow RB Adrian
Peterson, any deep pass options could only help.
(MORE TO COME
AS THE QB DECISON IS SAID TO BE IMMINENT…a little birdie told
me its Thompson)
has a QB problem…after three seasons of watching Kyle Boller
and Aaron Rodgers throw perfect darts, he's now seeing wobbly ducks
and overthrown screen passes. So the question begins, what is the
problem with Joe Ayoob? Like Rodgers, Ayoob is a JUCO-transfer.
He has yet to take a Division I-A snap and is struggling. His arm
strength was a known weakness, and accordingly, this scouting tidbit
appears to hold a great deal of water. He has also had problems
grasping Tedford's complex schemes while missing open receivers.
Through the early part of August camp, Nate Longshore has started
to take the reigns. Out of high school, Longshore was a Top 10 rated
QB, standing at 6-5 and tagged as the prototypical pocket passer.
But his mobility and footwork are questioned, opening the door for
the incoming JUCO Ayoob (who many dubbed "the white Michael
Vick" after he managed nine rushing TDs at City College of
San Francisco). The inevitable then began...the hype and wishful
thinking that Ayoob would be the next great passing QB under Jeff
Tedford, with wheels to match. It hasn't panned out, and Nate Longshore
is likely to start their opener versus Sacramento State. Don't expect
much struggle, and don't expect Ayoob to take over the following
week, or ever.
The tone has
been set in Baton Rouge. The talent has been assembled. Now, it's
just a matter of who's driving this racecar. “Mr. Alabama
Football” (2002) Jamarcus Russell has been put into a position
to excel with the surrounding talent. For the Tigers, it's absolutely
imperative that their QB play step up if the high rankings and predictions
for a national title run are ever to come to fruition. Heading into
the third week of August practice, the only info a tight-lipped
Coach Les Miles will confirm is that both Russell and Matt Flynn
were each planning to see action. A third factor was thrown into
the equation as Louisiana native Ryan Perrilloux (pronounced Pair-uh-lew)
stepped on campus for the first time. Arguably, he was the No. 1
high school prospect in the nation for 2004. Perrilloux even vowed
this summer that he would earn the starting job. He's been under
the microscope and has shown the typical issues most freshman deal
with...rusty mechanics, passes too high, still in the learning phase,
etc. Russell seems to be stepping up his game, but only time will
tell who the starter will be. A recent scrimmage had Russell working
mostly with the first unit while Perrilloux was seen spending most
of his time with the twos and threes. It may be as late as Thursday
of game week before coaches name the starter. Coach Miles is very
tight-lipped about releasing information from scrimmages/practices
and keeps a very close eye on what the news media reports. If he's
reading this one...Jamarcus Russell is the starter versus North
Texas. Flynn and Perrilloux will have a chance to show their skills
while playing the entire second half as the game is over by half
head coach Bill Callahan was not ready to name much traveled junior
Zac Taylor - who arrived at Nebraska in January from Butler Community
College after a brief 2003 stint at Wake Forest - his starter. Taylor
emerged from a wide-open quarterback race during spring ball and
concluded with a great spring game, connecting on 20-of-27 passes
for 357 yards. A big surprise thus far has come from redshirt freshman
Joe Ganz, who is currently running with the second unit. Some were
concerned about the fact Taylor hasn't seen any contact - he and
Ganz were the only two wearing green no-contact jerseys earlier.
Although nothing has been made official, Taylor is clearly the QB
for this team. The only race has to do with who plays backup.
entered August practice as number one. Sophomore Alex Brink has
beaten him out and has been named the starter for the opener versus
Idaho. Swogger started the first six games of ’04 before a
broken left foot ended his season. Brink then led the Cougars to
two late-season wins. Brink won the job this time three weeks into
August camp by making fewer mistakes while displaying improved arm
made less mistakes. He was more aware of the offense and did the
little things, like throwing the ball on time.” – Bill
How does June
Jones follow up the NCAA's all-time leading career passer in Timmy
Chang? For starters, he told two members from the five-man QB roster
that they would not be invited back for August training camp, and
each (Kainoa Akina and Jack Rolovich) was once considered a contender
to start. Akina was the backup most of last season. Gheez! For now,
claiming which remaining player is ahead in this race is hard to
determine. The two at the forefront appear to be Tyler Graunke and
Colt Brennan, who initially entered Hawai'i as a walk-on. Brennan
was dismissed from the University of Colorado (team) and found his
way to Saddleback Community College in California last fall, where
he was an honorable mention all-American and an honor roll student.
Both QBs have been sharing reps with the first team and have had
limited success against new defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville's
group. Whoever plays, he'll be extremely short in wide receiver
experience - upwards of six prime time players at the position moved
on. Jones has said that both will probably play in the opener. The
opponent? Top rated USC. Trial-by fire will reveal which can handle
this prestigious position best.