Walter Clement Pipp, more commonly known as Wally Pipp, was the right man for the job at first base for the New York Yankees. He was the experienced guy who had proven more than his understudy. Nobody was clamoring for a replacement. Then Lou Gehrig got his chance to play, and it turned out he was better than anyone could have imagined. So, naturally, the job was his.
Kerry Meier, on paper the better quarterback than Todd Reesing because he was more experienced, faster and bigger, was out due to an injury. Adam Barmann, the backup, was terrific, then not so hot, then, against Colorado on Oct. 28, 2006, lousy in the first half.
Kansas University coach Mark Mangino wisely ripped the red shirt off Reesing and sent him to the wolves. The wolves didn't stand a chance. In one unforgettable half against a CU defense that shut out the Jayhawks over the first two quarters, Reesing rushed for 90 yards and one touchdown and completed seven of 11 passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
On paper, Meier shaped up as a four-year solution at quarterback, a volatile position at Kansas for years. The game isn't played on paper. It's played on grass and dirt and instincts. In that setting, Meier hasn't been as good as Reesing, who showed so much in so little time. Plus, Reesing isn't as great an injury risk as Meier because he runs to pass, whereas Meier runs for first downs and touchdowns.
Reesing looks more comfortable playing the position than does Meier, who in the spring game still showed a tendency to run in place when passing, instead of planting and zipping a throw.
Meier is such a strong, fast, shifty runner, all good things. He actually looks as if he enjoys running the football more than passing it. When pass protection breaks down - given the uncertain outlook of the offensive line, that could be often next fall - Meier tucks it and runs. By not keeping alive the option of passing, he denies himself the greatest advantage a quarterback can ever have. No defense is more vulnerable than one that has committed to catching a scrambling quarterback.
When things break down, Reesing's feet run and his brain keeps thinking pass. He scrambles to give himself enough room to get off a pass. The more time he buys himself, the greater the chance the defense has fallen apart. It's not how far off the ground a quarterback's eyes are that matters most. It's where those eyes are when the defense cranks up the heat. Reesing's are downfield.
Reesing joined the program one semester after Meier. Even that disadvantage is close to a wash because the competition Reesing faced in high school in Texas, when he threw 41 touchdown passes and five interceptions as a senior, was stiffer than that Meier faced in Kansas.
Something about Reesing's free-wheeling style - who could forget the time he was almost sacked, broke free and began running in circles and then gunned a 31-yard completion to Jeff Foster - ignites the crowd, the guys with him in the huddle and even his defensive teammates. He can't do that watching somebody else.
The good news about a quarterback duel such as this is it means whichever way Mangino goes - the guess here is he'll go with Meier - Kansas will have a quality backup.