Without question the quarterback position might have been the spot that the Jayhawks felt the most pain associated with the turnover following the 2009 season. The departure of Todd Reesing opened the door for a trio of new faces including the player that seemed to be the heir apparent in Kale Pick. Rather than rehash the rest of the story it's a little less painful to just say that Pick, Jordan Webb and Quin Mecham all received an opportunity to grab hold of the quarterback job, but no one really separated themselves.
As we enter the Spring of 2011 there has been some change at the position. Kale Pick no longer calls himself a quarterback as the Dodge City native is following in the footsteps of Kerry Meier and making the move to wideout where the Jayhawk staff feels he can be more productive.
The belief was that Kansas would head into this 15 practice spring with three possibilities. Quin Mecham who seemed the most comfortable running the position, Jordan Webb who probably had more in the way of physical tools and of course a new face in Brock Berglund who for all intents and purposes looked to be Turner Gill's quarterback of the future.
Berglund started off at Kansas in January but has returned home to Colorado stating that he will return to campus in June. Either way he will not be fully participating in Spring practices. Word is he will be on hand for a few of them but based on what we know today, there are TWO primary options at quarterback for Kansas and two options that the Jayhawks need to have taken some offseason strides.
Jordan Webb - 6' 210 - Sophomore
Looking back it is pretty clear that Jordan Webb is the quarterback that Turner Gill trusts the most when looking at those on campus today. Kale Pick was named the initial starter most likely due to better mobility but that quickly changed following the disaster against NDSU.
Webb was the man under center when Turner Gill and the Jayhawks upset Georgia Tech a week later and had their not been an injury it isn't likely that anyone else would have seen the field. As a redshirt freshman Webb's enthusiasm was certainly noticeable and he was a player that seemed to provide a little something extra in the other players tanks, but as a quarterback it was far from a perfect season.
All in all Webb started seven games in 2010 completing 121 of 214 attempts for 1195 yards from scrimmage. When looking at an advanced stat measure known as adjusted per attempt rating that is used to give a more accurate depiction than a traditional quarterback rating, Webb checked in at 3.968 yards per attempt which ranked third from last in the Big 12 Conference.To be fair, when looking at that list, those redshirt freshman and first year players in the league all ranked in the bottom third of the conference quarterbacks.
Either way it goes without saying that Webb did some good things, but there is also plenty of room for improvement and odds are he'd be one of the first people to tell you that. One thing that can be said is that he is a competitor and if he can be afforded more time and better support around him, who knows what could happen.
What Does Spring Mean For Jordan Webb?
The fact is that at this point this is Jordan's job to lose. With Berglund not arriving until June and not working directly with the staff until August, Webb has a three spring and two fall headstart on the freshman. Yes Berglund will have an opportunity to work with other players during summer 7 on 7's and we've been led to believe he has worked in a similar offense, but after a 3-9 season Turner Gill isn't likely to completely throw his trust behind a true freshman immediately.
What that means for Webb is that he needs to show a better grasp of the offense. That means going through a progression, feeling pressure and making the throw under pressure. It can't be a situation where the quarterback is staring down one receiver and either tucking to run or tucking to take a sack. Again, there are things around him and players around him that can make this much more manageable but Webb needs to show he's matured and developed from the lumps he took in 2010.
Quinn Mecham - 6'2" 207 - Senior
Mecham started four games for the injured Webb in 2010 and was most notably a big part of the Jayhawks massive comeback victory over the Colorado Buffaloes. From the perspective of just watching Mecham work he did look like a player that was more comfortable going through a progression and a quarterback that could make a read on a defense and determine the right target. Where he doesn't necessarily stack up as well is in the physical department. Mecham is slower than Webb, Mecham doesn't have as strong an arm as Webb. Plain and simple the offense is fairly limited when Quin Mecham is in the game in terms of downfield shots and that was especially the case last season.
All in all Mecham finished 61 of 102 for 554 yards. In terms of his adjusted per attempt rating, Mecham actually checked in two notches lower than Webb and last in the conference at just 3.1 adjusted yards per attempt. Only the Pac10 had a quarterback with starter minutes that fell that low on the rating chart.
What To Look For From Quinn Mecham?
Mecham went back to the bench as soon as Webb was healthy enough to play and that's because of the limitations he has physically at the position. That doesn't mean he can' t find his way on the field again. With another offseason and another Spring Mecham needs to show that he can play with the full playbook. When he entered the starting role last Fall Chuck Long noted that he wasn't ready to run the full offense.
If he has the knowledge and can play smarter, mistake free football, a savvy senior can take the job.
Blake Jablonski - 6'3" 200 - RS Freshman
Any other year it would be easy to say that a redshirt freshman walk on doesn't really warrant a preview but after going through three quarterbacks a year ago and sitting one hit away from a fulltime wildcat formation it's probably necessary to look at the current "emergency" quarterback Blake Jablonski.
Jablonski actually has the best size of the three quarterbacks currently on campus at 6'3" and the Wichita Collegiate walk on actually has a fairly strong athletic career in the Kansas high school ranks. During his time as quarterback at Collegiate Jablonski led his team to the state title in football and in basketball while breaking the state record for single season passing yardage and touchdowns.
A good walk on program can certainly be a part of elevating Kansas and while most probably won't look for Jablonski to see major minutes, it's probably not a bad thing to have him working out with the scout team and providing a safety net for Kansas.
What Can Blake Jablonski do for Kansas in 2011?
Jablonski is the third stringer right now. In all reality if Berglund arrives and even Micheal Cummings he might move to fourth or fifth. But ideally if you plan on tying your horse to Jordan Webb and you find yourself at the third strong quarterback with things following a similar path as a year ago then you go with Jablonski and you keep a shirt on the two incoming freshman.
What that means is that any reps Jablonski can get are great. The better his understanding of the offense and the more he shows coaches that he can be trusted, that's a good thing for Kansas. Throwing the storybook walk on ending out the window, Jablonski is depth right now and he has to out work everyone else at his position just to keep pace.
No secret things aren't great at the quarterback position if you go by what we know. We know that our quarterbacks were sitting ducks last year and they didn't respond in an overly impressive fashion. It was a tough season, the offense was predictable and Todd Reesing is not walking through that door.
That said, it's another year and there is certainly something to be said for player development and progression. We don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing necessarily with this staff but heading into Spring ball it's important to see something that can provide some hope at this position.
Picking based on what we know today this is Jordan Webb's job. Perhaps Brock Berglund walks in come June and blows the doors off but I'm guessing that won't be the case. That's not to say he can't work his way into the lineup and most will still look to him as the quarterback of the future, but I do believe that Webb is the one that the coaches and PLAYERS will have the most confidence in when we kick the ball off against McNeese State in 155 days.
For the Spring, it's ALL about developing confidence and feeling the game better. When these 15 practices are through, whoever leads in the quarterback competition needs to believe they have the ability to succeed and it's hard to believe that last season didn't rattle the confidence at least a bit.