Coaches around the nation have opted to play their quarterback decisions closer to the vest than usual, seemingly waiting right down to the River before tipping their hands.
Henceforth I will spare you, dear reader, the poker metaphors. Just know that several high profile quarterback competitions are coming down to the absolute final days before coaches reveal their starters to the football-obsessed public.
Just because the general populace doesn’t is in the dark doesn’t mean teams are without clarity behind the scenes.
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said so jokingly, but spoke a resounding truth at last month’s Pac-12 media day when he responded to a rhetorical “why would I tell you?” when asked about his QB competition.
Of course, each quarterback race is different. Rodriguez will probably take a different approach with Arizona’s, entering a season opening stretch of Northern Arizona, UNLV and UT-San Antonio.
Bill O’Brien may be in no hurry to proclaim Tyler Ferguson or Christian Hackenberg the starter either, similarly giving each test runs against Syracuse as Saturdayblitz.com’s Jack Jorgensen examined.
Other programs with ongoing quarterback competitions face a greater sense of urgency come Week 1. TCU faces an important opening week challenge. So does Florida State, which opens in ACC play and thus faces immediate conference implications against Pittsburgh.
Neither Gary Patterson nor Jimbo Fisher have given any public indication as to who will take the first snaps of 2013. Fans and pundits have their assumptions, which may come true. Both almost assuredly have their man, despite statements to the contrary.
Still, they are at least keeping their Week 1 opponents guessing. Defensive coordinators can’t strategize on assumption.
Schematic advantage has been a hot topic in the past calendar year. Coaches have closed practices to media, refused to release injury information and contrived safety concerns to slow uptempo offenses: all of which equates to gamesmanship.
Likewise, there’s a level of gamesmanship to delaying the inevitable naming of a starting quarterback, which works both internally and externally.
The coaches themselves are not so haphazardly prepared or indecisive as to enter the final week of preseason practices without a clear strategy. Take TCU’s Patterson, who is as meticulous as they come.
So, when Patterson says a quarterback declaration won’t come until Aug. 31 — the day his Horned Frogs face the LSU Tigers — best believe his game plan has already been crafted. He is just avoiding a tell of which John Chavis can take advantage (sorry, last poker metaphor).
Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin are two very different quarterbacks. Pachall stands tall in the pocket at 6-foot-5, very much of the NFL quarterback mold. He spreads the ball around efficiently. His dismissal midway through last season forced Boykin into the starting role, and he wasn’t nearly the same kind of accurate passer. Boykin did at times exhibit an added dimension as a rusher, however.
Boykin was by no means Johnny Manziel or Marcus Mariota in the ground game, but he did have games of 77, 51 and 56 yards. By contrast, Pachall rushed for 51 his entire full season as a starter in 2011.
FSU’s Fisher is operating fall camp with a similar competition. Jameis Winston is dynamic, capable of making plays with his feet. Jacob Coker is the more traditional Pro Set quarterback with which Fisher has worked in his career. Winston’s potential have made him the odds-on favorite among fans and mediaites, some even going so far as to talk Heisman before he even takes a snap.
Winston is likely the Seminole starter, but again, that’s not an assumption Pittsburgh can afford to make.
Conversely, Pitt announced its starter last week. In Tom Savage and Chad Voytik, Panthers head coach Paul Chryst had no great style contrast that would alter FSU’s gameplan. Moreover, Chryst took an opportunity to give his upperclassman a vote of confidence.
Of course, a coach must ultimately turn over his offense to the best quarterback, regardless of experience. How a quarterback competition is handled internally can have serious long-term impact.
Some have operated under the assumption much of this off-season that Blake Bell would captain the Oklahoma Sooners offense. He has two years of game action under his belt, albeit primarily in special packages.
If an unconfirmed, anonymous sourced report aired on Oklahoma TV station KFOR is true and freshman Trevor Knight is Bob Stoops’ choice, there are a few potential long-term ramifications: how does it impact Bell’s place on the team? Is he still going to appear on goal line and short yardage sets, and how does this limit what OU can do offensively?
To that end, a platoon system has been called “a last resort.”
And does Knight, a player with four years of eligibility remaining taking over affect the Sooners’ younger quarterbacks like Kendal Thompson or highly touted 2013 signee Cody Thomas?
There is so much going on behind the curtain of all these ongoing quarterback battles. With so much at stake, you can understand coaches holding their poker faces.
Yes, that was another poker metaphor.