Tuesday, July 30, 2013

quarterbacks, finally

I've avoided this subject on purpose for a while now.  Mike London has always insisted on making it a pretty painful one, because he refuses to make a decision.  His waffling on this issue is without doubt the most frustrating thing about him as a coach.  More so than his constant haranguing of the refs or his exceedingly questionable decision to have the not-strong-armed Mike Rocco try to lead a game-winning drive into gale-force winds down in Blacksburg.  These are frustrating as a fan.  The quarterback thing is frustrating as both a fan and a blogger, because it makes any prediction I try to make turn to dust a few days later.  Analysis is what I do, more or less, and analysis is pointless when not even the head coach knows who's going to take the next snap.

Why the change?  Because London appears committed to change.  Or less change.  He told the assembled media throng at ACC media days that he would pick a quarterback early in camp, and that guy would actually be the guy.  What a helluva concept.

A quick review of the spinning carousel in the three years of London: In 2010 it was Marc Verica, while some backups came in and tossed the ball a little as well.  This was not offensive to my sensibilities, since there was an established starter, but the signs were there even if we missed them.  Mike Rocco and Ross Metheny split the garbage-time snaps, a pretty clear indication that London had no idea what to do with the #2-on-down pecking order.  2011 was a wishy-washy disaster in August, September, and October, until London appeared to come to his senses, put Rocco in for the rest of the season, and watched him win four straight to clinch a Peach Bowl trip.  It might've stayed that way if Phillip Sims hadn't arrived on scene, and suddenly it was back to the well of indecision.  Depending on who you believe, it might've been fueled by London promising to give Sims the starting job, followed by Sims not exactly seizing it.  Politics, in other words.

Rocco left last winter, not knowing that Sims's eligibility wouldn't survive the spring.  Spring practice saw more of the same ol' stuff, too, but Sims's departure took a chunk out of our depth yet cleared up the picture.  Also clearing up the picture: almost certainly Tom O'Brien.  London by himself might have been moving toward the realization that the waffling wasn't helping, but TOB was brought on for his experience and sage counsel, and no doubt delivered some on the subject.

So, at the moment, there are two contenders for the job.  Matt Johns and Brendan Marshall will be on the roster as well this season, but Johns sat out spring and is naturally behind, and Marshall is a true freshman.  That leaves David Watford and Greyson Lambert.

Lambert probably has the stronger arm, and he's been putting in the appropriate work.  Watford redshirted in 2012 after the snaps he played in 2011 proved that, more or less, he wasn't ready.  That redshirt could turn out to be one of the best things the program has done for itself, because almost every observer labels Watford the frontrunner.  It makes one think about the merits of a redshirt season after a season on the field.  There's something to be said for learning what you don't know and then having a year-plus to work on that stuff.

Besides that, there are more than a few people praising Watford's leadership efforts.  Not that Lambert hasn't also been making himself known in that regard, but Watford seems to have a good combination going for him: leadership, command of the offense, and the ability to move around a little bit.  Watford isn't going to be an electric runner, but he can keep a play alive with his feet longer than Lambert is ever likely to be able to.

If Watford gets the nod, it'll be a new experience for our new OC, Steve Fairchild.  The vast majority of his experience (if not all of it) comes from dealing with big-armed pocket passers, QBs much closer to Lambert's style than Watford's.  I couldn't find any examples of quarterbacks Fairchild has worked with that have a skill set like Watford's.  That said, I don't know how adaptable Fairchild is but it's a little on the encouraging side that the coaches are picking a quarterback based on who's the best quarterback, rather than who's the best fit with the coach's history.  We're not talking about a Rich Rodriguez here, who has done one thing all his life, done it very well, and wouldn't know how to run a pro-style offense in a hundred years.  Fairchild is still going to run whatever offense he runs, he'll just have to figure out how best to use Watford's skills in it.

In any case, though, we'll be going into the season with yet another brand-new starting quarterback.  No matter who gets picked.  Watford has some starts under his belt....two years ago, and with a different OC, and frankly very little he did in 2011 was effective.  I don't think his freshman season is a useful indicator of anything.  Lambert is a redshirt freshman and therefore has never taken a game snap.  Sims was a likewise unknown commodity in 2012, just like Rocco was in 2011.  UVA hasn't had the same quarterback take the majority of snaps in two consecutive seasons since 2006-2007, with Jameel Sewell.  That won't change this year, either.  However, if Mike London has truly decided to join the rest of college football and stop indecisively platooning his quarterbacks, he might just be laying the foundation to end that streak.  Which in turn would mean the kind of stability that one frustrated blogger has never had the privilege to write about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to take the opportunity to applaud the athletic department once again for their stroke of genius in hiring TOB. (And applaud the idiocy of NCSU in firing him.) It's crazy to think that a major-program head coach needs to be taught how to run a program -- but that's the head coach we have. Could hardly think of a better fit to be the teacher than TOB. And it'll be great to see him back on the Scott Stadium sidelines again.