One of the major questions headed into the 2010 season revolved around replacing the Kansas Jayhawks record holding quarterback Todd Reesing. Headed into the year there weren't many that had a complete grasp on how much Reesing meant to the Kansas program over the past three seasons, but headed into an offseason after a 3-9 2010, most probably do now.
For Kansas the offseason quarterback battle focused on two players. Kale Pick was a redshirt sophomore out of Dodge City Kansas and was the heir apparent under Mangino's watch. Jordan Webb, a redshirt freshman from Missouri, represented the competition.
What followed in Turner Gill's first year was a three way quarterback shuffle fueled by injury, inconsistency, inexperience and a offensive coordinator grasping for straws.
There are two types of teams in the world, those with a quarterback and those searching for a quarterback. After 2010 and headed into 2011, Kansas appears to be in the latter category.
To recap, Kale Pick wins the job in the offseason being named the starter headed into 2010. Kansas' offense looks abysmal against 1-AA North Dakota State and Jordan Webb is inserted into the lineup. While Kansas comes up short against the Bison, Webb leads the Jayhawks in a flukish win over Georgia Tech and is proclaimed the starter and savior. That declaration proves premature as the Jayhawk offense falls back into oblivion minus the occasional big game from running back James Sims.
An injury to Jordan Webb and Kale Pick in the same game means Quinn Mecham gets a chance. The junior college product looks comfortable in the pocket compared to the other two, but lacks the physical tools in terms of arm strength and speed to maintain the job. Jordan Webb reenters the picture for Missouri and Kansas wraps up the season in losing fashion.
Overall Kansas quarterback play accounted for 1942 yards, 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Not exactly setting the world on fire. Some would point to the struggles on the offensive line when referencing these struggles, others the loss of Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. But this is the essentially the same offensive line that Todd Reesing managed 3600+ yards and 22 TD's behind, just a season ago. Any way you slice it, some of the dropoff has to do with what lies between the ears of the Kansas quarterbacks this season.
Some of that could be inexperience, some of it probably rests with overall capability. The question becomes, does Kansas have a quarterback on the roster right now that can make the jump in 2011 to bring Kansas back to the point of a competent offense?
Elsewhere in the Big 12, there are other quarterback situations that were viewed as fairly dire. Texas is finding out how difficult it is to replace an all time great as Garret Gilbert is experiencing his fare share of growing pains. In College Station a quarterback switch led to a senior on the bench and a solid late run. Kansas' in state rival Kansas State has also had a well documented struggle at the position. In nearly every statistical category, Kansas still falls well short of competing in any major category.
The closest comparison that could likely be drawn at this stage would be to Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert averaged 228 yards per game with the second lowest efficiency in the league outside of a Kansas quarterback at 110.99. Gilbert's per attempt average stands at 6.22, just slightly higher than any Kansas quarterback and if there was an area he fell short it was in the TD/INT capacity as Gilbert accounted for just 10 touchdowns while throwing 17 interceptions.
As a result, Texas finished with a below .500 record and will miss a bowl game which is a near travesty for the Longhorns. The scary part about that when comparing it to Kansas is that the Lonhorns finished 5-7 with all that talent, all those four and five star recruits and much of it seems to rest on the shoulders of the quarterback. Kansas doesn't have a defense or the across the board talent of a Texas, and right now they also have a worse quarterback situation.
That leads to a quick glance toward 2011. It's fairly clear that Kale Pick is not going to be the guy and based on his comments following the Kansas game, it will be interesting to see what decision he makes as to his future with the program. Personally I don't know that he clearly played his way out of the role, but of any of the three he is the one that probably stands the best chance at competing elsewhere on the field.
Jordan Webb appears to have the greatest potential in terms of physical tools. He has decent arm strength and runs well, but can he bring along his ability to read a defense and go through a progression. Too often it seems he's locked in on a receiver from the snap and that's where it's going.
Quinn Mecham would be the player that has shown the most in terms of playing the position from a mental standpoint, but what he has between the ears is offset by what he lacks physically. Mecham doesn't have a strong arm, he doesn't make plays with his feet, but he does see the field.
Based on those general evaluations, Jordan Webb is probably your best hope IF you plan to move forward with these three options in 2011. Webb will have to show major development in the offseason, the offensive line will need to improve dramatically and the Kansas receiving corps will have to show the ability to get open. None of these things occurred in 2010.
The second option is to land a player that can change the position immediately. Zack Stoudt or Brock Berglund are the two names that appear to be at the forefront of that conversation. Both are big quarterbacks with the tools and ability on paper. Stoudt has junior college experience, football pedigree, high football aptitude and a big arm. Berglund would be the younger inexperienced option but he has the arm, makes plays with his feet and could be a longterm solution.
Another name that sometimes get's forgotten because he committed early is Michael Cummings. Right now Cummings is rehabbing a major knee injury however and he's probably not a guy that can change the Kansas quarterback situation immediately. That's not to say he couldn't win the job, but it may or may not be the improvement that's needed. Quite frankly, relying on any true freshman is ALWAYS a gamble.
Make It Happen
Two things have plagued Kansas football over the years more than anything. Coaching inconsistency and quarterback inconsistencies. If you look at the most successful times in Kansas football, it often comes with a dynamic quarterback.
Right now Kansas is wrapping up year one of a coaching change that brought in two Heisman finalists in Chuck Long and Turner Gill. It's pretty clear that some time is going to be necessary. Priority number one for these two is finding a quarterback, developing a quarterback and giving the Kansas offense the stability and consistency to improve.
It starts with the signal caller. The clock is ticking and the Gill/Long combo need to find one or bring Jordan Webb along in a hurry if they want to change the fortunes of the Kansas football program and recover some of the lost faith that occurred as a result of 2010.