Kansas coach Turner Gill talks after the Jayhawks' 35-7 loss to Missouri on Nov. 27, 2010.
Kansas City, Mo. Turner Gill’s Kansas University football team is only three players shy of contending for a Big 12 title next season: Terry Bradshaw, Jerry Rice and Ray Lewis.
Failing that fantasy, it’s time for Gill and his staff to get busy nailing down enough commitments to give a skeptical fan base reason to believe renewing season tickets will amount to more than a masochistic act of blind loyalty.
That won’t happen unless Kansas lands a big-time quarterback who can count on protection from offensive linemen. To achieve that, they must work themselves into better physical condition next season than they played at during a 3-9 year.
Coaches don’t promise recruits starting jobs, but in the case of junior-college quarterback Zack Stoudt, no promise is necessary. A December graduate, Stoudt wins the job the second he steps foot on campus, if Kansas lands him.
Not that any more evidence of that was needed, the performance of quarterbacks Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham in Saturday’s 35-7 loss to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium confirmed the next starting quarterback has to come from outside the program.
Saturday’s stale game witnessed by 55,788 also called attention to how badly the rivalry needs to return to campus stadiums when the current agreement expires after the 2012 season. The thrill of playing it at Arrowhead is gone, and it must return to campus to revive its juice.
Mostly, though, the game pointed to the need for Kansas to find a quarterback.
The combined statistics of Webb and Mecham (0-for-4, one pick) were 7-of-24 for 42 yards and three interceptions. The average of 1.75 yards per pass attempt simply doesn’t happen. The fact that it did is why James Sims should have rushed the ball 31 times, instead of 21. He averaged 3.9 yards a carry.
With Sims (82 yards Saturday, 742 on the season) running, Tim Biere at tight end and receiving candidates who red-shirted as freshmen to choose from to shore up that position, adding a quality quarterback could go a long way toward KU fielding an offense that could sell tickets and win games.
The notion that quarterbacks get too much credit when things go well, too much blame when they head south, has no merit. A decisive quarterback with a quick release, a strong-enough arm to throw downfield and enough accuracy to throw into tight spots, makes blockers look better, makes receivers run their routes with more purpose and takes heat off the running game.
Mecham had the accuracy, but didn’t have a strong-enough arm for Kansas to mount a vertical passing attack. He tended to under-throw receivers. The experience he gained this year will come in handy as he enters next season as the backup to an incoming QB. He played a terrific game in the come-from-behind victory against Colorado.
Webb, who led the Georgia Tech upset, had the arm strength, but tended to over-throw targets by quite a bit, locked in on one receiver and generally didn’t throw an accurate ball.
Asked to grade the quarterback spot, Gill was kind.
“We saw a spark here, saw a spark there, but it wasn’t on a consistent basis,” he said. “We’ve got to have a person at that position being able to be consistent in making those plays, and we’ll get that corrected as time goes on.”
How? By recruiting an instant starter.
It wasn’t until Todd Reesing strained his groin and played hurt for much of the 2009 season that it became evident how many holes that Reesing had masked existed on the roster, a problem that became greater after Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe and Darrell Stuckey left.
Good quarterbacks change teams, and some who enter new programs get their football brains caught up more quickly than others. Mecham, for example, looked like the most experienced quarterback when he was the third on the roster to get his first start.
Stoudt, son of former NFL QB Cliff Stoudt, intends to enroll at his new school at the beginning of the second semester. If he chooses Kansas, he’ll be tutored by another former NFL quarterback, Chuck Long. Sounds as if Kansas is the right fit for Stoudt.