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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gill: Kansas QB battle is wide open

Kansas quarterback Quinn Mecham looks to throw during practice in this April 12 file photo. Now that Kale Pick is injured, Mecham will be KU’s backup quarterback.

Kansas quarterback Quinn Mecham looks to throw during practice in this April 12 file photo. Now that Kale Pick is injured, Mecham will be KU’s backup quarterback.

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Fifteen minutes into Monday’s practice — the 10th of the spring for the Kansas University football team — KU coach Turner Gill scurried behind red-shirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb as the Jayhawks shuffled between drills.

“Go find No. 7,” Gill barked at Webb, who wears No. 2. “Go find No. 7.”

The player wearing No. 7 was third-year sophomore Kale Pick, and at this particular time, Pick was ahead of the rest of the KU quarterbacks, sprinting to be first in line for a footwork drill with offensive coordinator Chuck Long.

“I think that might have been the first time that’s happened,” said Webb of Gill’s extra encouragement. “But he’s an upbeat coach, and it’s awesome to play for a coach like that. He’s wanting you to get better, you can feel it.”

It’s not that Gill was showing any allegiance to Webb, who is locked in a six-man battle to become the Jayhawks’ starter this fall.

Instead, he was demonstrating just how much he enjoys competition.

“There’s really no front-runner in the quarterback spot,” Gill said Monday before practice. “There’s great competition, I can tell you that. I think we probably have two or three guys that can win ballgames for us.”

Through one week of spring practices, the battle for the job appeared to be a two-man race between Webb and Pick.

But from the way Gill talked Monday, things are as wide-open as ever, with Pick and Webb continuing to perform well and junior-college transfer Quinn Mecham showing improvement.

“This last week you saw good progress out of everybody,” Gill said. “I think Jordan has done some things in a great way. Kale Pick has done some great things. Quinn Mecham’s coming along. He made big strides this past week. A lot of guys have definitely improved at the quarterback position. And it puts a smile on my face, when you’ve got some guys who can make plays, versus the other way around, where maybe you have three or four guys but you don’t know if you have much there.”

With just four practices remaining before the team’s annual Spring Game — 1 p.m., April 24 — the guys in the heat of the battle continue to bring their best to the field every day without worrying about who’s ahead and who’s behind.

“I’m going to come out and push myself no matter what the situation is,” Pick said. “If anybody gets a lead, or even if I get a lead, I’m not going to just sit comfortable with that. That’s not the way it should be. Even if someone gets the starting job, they should keep pushing themselves.”

Added Webb: “I can’t really talk about the depth chart because we don’t have one. We’ve had (10) practices with this new staff, and if they were going to make a decision that fast, I think that would be pretty hasty. The competition’s going to last for a long time, I think. They gotta make sure they find the right guy for what we want to do.”

Four work to return kicks

Gill said Monday that Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears, Isiah Barfield and Deshaun Sands were doing the most work in the kick-return roles. “Those are the three or four guys getting most of the reps,” Gill said. “We’re still evaluating things. But we’ve got guys who have some speed and can make plays.”

More praise for the D-Line

Gill continued to show appreciation for the work put in by KU’s defensive tackles. “Pat Dorsey has been pretty steady and done some nice things,” Gill said. “(With) Richard Johnson, Darius Parish and Jamal Greene, we have a good group of interior guys. And we need a lot of those guys because they get a little winded and we’ll have to be able to substitute in there.”

RBs banged up

Running backs Toben Opurum and Rell Lewis returned to a full day of drills Monday after being limited late last week.

Both backs are dealing with minor leg injuries.

Comments

Kevin Studer 11 years, 9 months ago

Well, I don't know if Gill is pulling for Webb or not, but KUSports certainly seems to be...

MitchumMan 11 years, 9 months ago

QBs - I think it's obvious that Pick and Webb are the only two actually competing for the starting job. I would prefer Pick to win the job just because he's proved that he's a dual-threat QB, and we know how benificial a dual-threat QB can be in college ball. But at the end of the day, I just want who ever is going to give us the most wins.

As far as RBs - At least we have plenty of RBs in case some get hurt. We may have to change our running style a little bit, but I wouldn't think that would be a big deal.

Great stuff Matt!

Jonathan Allison 11 years, 9 months ago

I am hoping that Pick proves himself as the better selection. I root for the Kansas guys. But if Webb is the better QB then by all means give him the ball. He keeps being comared to Todd Reesing, and I don't think anyone will complain about that. It'll be interesting to see how things shake out for these guys. Who shows up on the two-deep and what happens to the rest of them.

Jonathan Briles 11 years, 9 months ago

I am with the second part of the two previous comments. I will be behind whoever wins the job. I think that both of them are great QB's who will win games for us. Touching on the duel threat deal, Webb ran for over a thousand yards in his senior year. I do not think that he is extremely quick, but I think that he is smart and shifty. Either way though I'm excited for whoever ends up under center.

MitchumMan 11 years, 9 months ago

I don't think anybody would call Webb a dual-threat. He may have ran 1,000 yards in his senior season but it also lived in a town of about 9,000 people. Do you really think he was going up against great competition? Don't get me wrong, he can probably run a little bit, but no where near the way Pick can.

Jonathan Briles 11 years, 9 months ago

I added in my comment that I do not think that Webb is very quick, but I do think that he can be duel threat. I consider Webb to have the same ability to run that Todd did. Todd was not quick by any means but he could take off if given the chance. There is no arguing that Pick is the far better runner and has an incredible ability to run, but I feel as though Webb still has his own duel threat about him.

MitchumMan 11 years, 9 months ago

It's just when I think dual-threat, I think being able to run the option, QB sneaks, and plays like that. I don't really think we were very successful running those plays with Todd. I do agree with you though that he might have some of the same abilities that Todd had. But we're also going to be running a different offense for the most part than when Todd was here. But my point wasn't to argue with you, and I'm not, just trying to explain. I was just trying to say that I don't know how much credit Webb should get for that 1,000 yard rushing season (considering the level of playing around him).

JVZMan 11 years, 9 months ago

Webb in his Sr. year led the Wildcats to a 48 to 3 thumping to private school Jeff City Helias, Helias only lost one other game that season and that was the state championship by 6 to the perenial powerhouse Webb City.

Small town maybe, but they played bigger schools and proved that a small town school could compete with big schools.

100 11 years, 9 months ago

Man I love this new Coaching staff...

I love that the kids can have pride in themselves & speak to the press without hesitation...

I love that the LJW has really bolted to football for nonstop coverage ever since the deflating loss to NIU...

You've gotta figure football recruits are eating these articles up.

Coach Gill & his staff are doing it the right way...

Thanks for your continued coverage LJW!!!!

NebraskaJayhawk 11 years, 9 months ago

I don't know what town / city size has to do with speed. It's not like Pick is from a huge metropolis (Dodge City pop. 25k).

I would like to see Pick win the job, however, because he presents size with his speed (because we'll be running the option this year more than we have in previous years). Plus the fact he's a Kansas native. But I'm like everyone else...whoever can win us more ballgames. I get the impression that everyone thinks there's going to be a drop-off at QB this year because Reesing is gone. Honestly, I think it's possible we could be improved this year. I'm looking forward to seeing what each can bring to the table.

Jonathan Briles 11 years, 9 months ago

I loved Todd a lot and know that he was a driving force behind our rise in the College football ranks, but I do agree with you in the thought that we might break even or even go up at the QB position. Last year everyone figured Todd out. Every team we played knew that if you rushed the edge and forced Todd to stay in the pocket and throw over the line that he was much less effective. This year teams won't have anything on our QB's. I am very excited about this season.

JBurtin 11 years, 9 months ago

I get a bit tired of the all encompassing "level of competition" argument. It works in certain districts of Texas that are serious about their football, but there are also many schools in Texas that are nothing more than cannon fodder for the programs that take football seriously. It's not like Texas schools shoot people up with roids the moment they walk in the door, and there isn't something in the water that mysteriously makes Texas players run faster. Texas players do well in college simply because some of them have superior coaching at that level, and the state is huge, so there are a ton of recruits.

It makes even less sense when someone applies the level of competition argument as a knock against a player simply because they would like to see another player win the job.

People keep making a big deal out of the level of competition that Webb played against yet "bizarrely" don't acknowledge the fact that the competition that Pick played against is probably even worse.

When you look at the high school stats of these two players it's not even a comparison. Webb put up monster numbers by anybody's standards and I have little doubt that his numbers would have been good no matter where he played.

I don't have anything against Pick, and do think that his superior speed could win some games for us; however, I'm really not of the opinion that sheer speed is the biggest necessity for a QB. Most of the time you'd like your QB to pick up a few yards when necessary and get on the ground before he gets nailed.

I see Webb as a guy with nearly Reesing's elusiveness, but with the size, strength and propensity for running that we saw from Whittemore. If Todd had a downfall it was that he kept his eyes downfield almost to a flaw. Sometimes he had a simple running lane that he easily could have exploited for the first down, yet chose to throw the dangerous pass instead. Anyone who remembers the KU/MU game from 03 will remember just how easily Whittemore (with mediocre speed) was able to exploit their defense 10 yards at a time when they didn't leave someone at home to keep him from running.

When it comes down to it, either of these quarterbacks could have success, so I trust Gill and Co. to make the right decision, but I certainly wouldn't downplay Webb's ability due to "weak competition" or lack of blazing speed. Throwing and running for as many yards as he did in high school is more than enough to prove that he simply knows how to play the game.

MitchumMan 11 years, 9 months ago

If you are referring to my comment i wasn't saying Webb can't have success. Not at all. I was just referring to his 1,000 yards rushing that I've heard people talking about. All I'm saying is, is that he is more of a pro-style QB, which is not a bad thing. I just like the idea of the dual-threat QB (Pick) because it gives a team more options. With your TX rant...I have no clue where that came from. Definitely not from me!

bearhawk 11 years, 9 months ago

About Dodge City not playing anybody, I take that as an insult as being an ex Hutchinson Salt Hawk. Our team won many 6A state football championships. Pick's team (Dodge City) played us every year in our regionals. I only saw him play once when he was a junior at Hutch. I think he threw for about 300 yds. and ran for another 100 yds. He pretty much kept Dodge in the game by himself, and we were the 6A state champions. I was disappointed when he orginally committed to Arkansas (who at that time was the SEC West champions). I thought ...here we loose another Kansas kid. Happy to see him decide to be a Jayhawk. I was impressed again last year when he came into the games as a Jayhawk at the Division I level. Shows the kid has talent. For comparisons to other quarterbacks, I always hear coaches comparing him to Colt McCoy. I like that.

hawk316 11 years, 9 months ago

Webb said, “But he’s an upbeat coach, and it’s awesome to play for a coach like that. He’s wanting you to get better, you can feel it.”

The positive vibes emanating from this new football program are refreshingly consistent. Player after player has been praising this new coaching staff. After all the recent turmoil, for the players this must seem like sunshine after a fierce storm. I'm happy for them.

hawk316 11 years, 9 months ago

Coach Gill says, "and it puts a smile on my face, when you’ve got some guys who can make plays, versus the other way around, where maybe you have three or four guys but you don’t know if you have much there.”

Sounds like Coach is seeing some quality depth at this extremely important position. As a former outstanding QB, Gill should know a good quarterback when he sees one. That's great news as we begin the post-Reesing era.

JBurtin 11 years, 9 months ago

MichumMan,

I didn't really intend my rant to be pointed at anyone specifically or even necessarily for just this article. For instance, there are some posters that think that Christian Matthews must be our best bet for QB simply because he's from Texas.

I've also heard the same kinds of ridiculous "weak competition" arguments aimed at Brandon Bourbon in the last few weeks. Sure the high school competition may not have been the absolute top tier for Bourbon, but it's obvious that he knows how to play the game, and he proved without a doubt that he is a superior physical specimen by going up against 800+ other high school kids and posting the best overall SPARQ rating of anyone in the country. Yet despite this evidence some posters would still insist that Sims must be the better incoming back simply because he's from Texas. Not to take anything away from Sims because (like all of our signees) I hope he does very well for us, but I find the Texas argument to be rather weak.

I guess I just see it as a common way that many posters and the national media as a whole belittle our recruits. We get second tier Texas kids and the only first tier recruits are from "weak competition" pools like Missouri and Kansas, so we must not stand a chance. If some of the posters on here truly think this way, then why would they even bother following the team?

I for one think that we've scored some deep gold mines with these kids from "weak" competition in the past, and if we could just land a few more of the quality ones in the area, then we'll be able to give just about anyone in the country a run for their money. Nebraska had a good run for about 40 years on this mentality, and the 90's K-State teams seemed to do just fine with some local talent as well.

Why not us?

mondhawk 11 years, 9 months ago

the old man at ksu must not got the memo about recruits from small towns not seeing good competition so you might want to think ask those boys from smith center [mark simenou] or Douglass kansas [monty Biesel] because they were competing over their heads .

HawkNationNWichita 11 years, 9 months ago

Don't degrade Douglass by saying Monty Biesel is from there. He went there his Senior year and that was it. And if you knew the guy personally you'd know why I say he wasn't from Douglass. Sorry I don't like the guy and never have. But I do agree that there is talent in the smaller towns. People just don't hear about it.

KURocksChalk 11 years, 9 months ago

The population of Kansas is 11% of Texas so it stands to reason that Texas has about ten times the football players. although, we don't know the schools with football programs ratio from state to state, but I would think it similar. I also believe that Texas high school football players are allowed more time per state rules to practice football. That being said, I think small schools are terribly overlooked. Remember Nolan Cromwell? Played 8-man football in Ransom, Ks, population 528. Was so good he ran the option at KU and shocked the Sooners one year I remember. Then he goes Pro and plays safety for the Rams, among others. The man was just a fabulous athlete. I say recruit good athletes with a highly competitive drive. If they are a great athlete but don't have the drive, think they are special, we don't want them. Those kind not only get in trouble, but bring other players down. Nebraska was built on small-town talent. I also don't think we should recruit "project" players, meaning guys who are trying to escape "the hood", young men trying to find themselves, etc. It sounds cold, but I think we should act like an insurance company and determine risk factors. Stick with sound young men who had good role models, have a good work ethic, are competitive, and love football. So, Webb, Pick, or others? Webb's numbers are just phenominal and that means a lot, but right now I'd say the guy that can make reads, make quick releases, makes quick and good decisions should win out. The game is faster than high school so past perform may not mean that much. What a good problem to have. I think we have three or four guys who could start somewhere else. Don't count Teahan out!

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