Every Team, Every Player
By Dave Glenn and staff
September 6, 2004 Clemson Must Protect Whitehurst
CLEMSON Taking a glance at his fluid throwing motion, his composure in the pocket and his gaudy numbers, it's easy to assume Charlie Whitehurst has been a big-time quarterback since he exited his mother's womb.
But it wasn't always apparent that Whitehurst would be known as one of the best quarterbacks in college football, heading into his junior year at Clemson.
"I probably threw for more yards last year," he said, "than I threw for in my whole life."
Whitehurst hasn't followed the typical route to stardom. His career at Chattahoochee High in Georgia was marred by injuries and a belief that the coaching staff there didn't maximize his potential. He missed much of his senior season thanks to a separated shoulder and a broken thumb, and his father said he was "running for his life" when he was healthy.
"Every play was like a jailbreak that he had to scramble on and try to find somebody open," said David Whitehurst, a former NFL quarterback who groomed his son to follow in his footsteps. "Instead of putting the protection in to block quickly, giving time to set up quickly and throw the ball, they were doing long play-action passes. To me, it went against what he did best."
Home-state schools Georgia and Georgia Tech went after more highly regarded quarterbacks in 2001, ultimately leaving Whitehurst with a choice between North Carolina and Clemson. He ended up choosing the Tigers after UNC coordinator Mike O'Cain left the Tar Heels during a coaching change to become the quarterbacks coach at Clemson.
While leading the scout team during his redshirt season in 2001, Whitehurst made it clear that he might not be sitting on the bench for long. O'Cain remembers watching a scrimmage and seeing Whitehurst step up in the pocket against a withering rush, calmly threading a pass down the middle.
"He came here at a very, very high level," O'Cain said. "You didn't get to see that much on film because he missed so much of his senior year. You didn't know you had a guy with these capabilities, but you hoped you did."
Woody Dantzler was gone after 2001, and heralded Willie Simmons was the heir apparent. But Whitehurst took the starting job by the ninth game of 2002, then fended off a final challenge by Simmons the following spring. Simmons then transferred, leaving no doubt that Clemson was Charlie's team.
Whitehurst has done little wrong since. He already owns 33 school records, and he closed last season on a scorching four-game run by passing for 1,151 yards and eight touchdowns on 84-of-122 passing. He still needs to cut down on interceptions he threw 13 in 2003 but preseason reports indicated he's more polished than ever.
Linebacker Eric Sampson even dubbed Whitehurst "The Franchise," although the franchise could be in disarray if Whitehurst suffers an injury. No one in Clemson's camp wants to ponder the prospect, but there's no doubt it could happen, particularly given that the Tigers are breaking in several new offensive tackles.
Redshirt sophomore Will Proctor is established as the backup, and head coach Tommy Bowden said he has been impressed with his progress. But Proctor was the third-string quarterback last season and even moved to receiver, where he played 11 snaps.
Chansi Stuckey was Whitehurst's backup last year, but he's now drawing raves as a shifty, make-'em-miss playmaker at wide receiver. Bowden said Stuckey, a high school QB, could be moved back to quarterback if Whitehurst were out for a month or more.
True freshmen Tribble Reese and Cullen Harper fit Whitehurst's dropback mold, and reviews of their early practice performances have been positive, but O'Cain said he's hoping to redshirt both players this fall.
Recent QB signees: Brian Carr (moved to linebacker) in 2000; Whitehurst in 2001; Proctor and Stuckey (moved to receiver) in 2002; C.J. Gaddis (moved to cornerback) in 2003; Harper and Reese in 2004.
Larry Williams, Charleston (S.C.) Post & Courier
Hurricanes Offer Intriguing Mix
CORAL GABLES Brock Berlin again is the starter at Miami, but there figures to be far less patience with the senior than there was last season. To say that Berlin didn't match the hype created following his much-publicized transfer from Florida would be a significant understatement.
Questionable decision-making dogged Berlin throughout 2003, as did Miami's fickle fans, who repeatedly booed him in the Orange Bowl. Berlin tossed 17 interceptions the third-highest single-season total in school history while engineering an offense that was held to its lowest scoring average (27.8) since 1995.
Berlin displayed a knack for connecting on short- to medium-range passes, completing nearly 60 percent of his throws. But his lack of a strong throwing arm appeared to limit the Hurricanes' big-play ability in the passing game, and his penchant for zeroing in on his primary receiver caused his interception total to balloon.
The worry is that Berlin didn't get better as the 2003 season matured. In Miami's final six games, Berlin threw seven interceptions and only three touchdown passes. UM coaches like to point out that Berlin won 10 of the 12 games he started, but if not for the Hurricanes' defense the team easily could have lost two or three more times last season.
Head coach Larry Coker admitted during fall practice that he didn't see "greatness" in Berlin, but he's sticking with him as the starter. How long Berlin keeps that job could well depend on how he plays in the season opener against Florida State, a team he helped beat twice last season despite throwing five interceptions and only one touchdown.
Who would replace Berlin if he struggles again?
Coker named fifth-year senior Derrick Crudup his No. 2 quarterback during the third week of spring practice, surprising those who thought strong-armed redshirt freshman Kyle Wright would be Berlin's top backup. Coker said he chose Crudup over Wright because of the experience factor.
Crudup has been Miami's second-team QB for three years and made one start last season against Syracuse. The Hurricanes won that game 17-10, but Crudup didn't play well and Berlin was back in the starting lineup the following week. Crudup has great athletic ability. His problem, as with Berlin, has been faulty decision-making.
Despite his current status as the No. 3 quarterback, there is no question that Wright will play this season. With both Berlin and Crudup in their final season, Miami's coaches will have to find time for Wright or risk going into 2005 with a highly inexperienced starter.
Wright has classic quarterback features, standing 6-5, weighing 210 pounds and possessing the kind of arm strength that seems destined to make the California native a future star. But he didn't stand out in either spring or fall practices while taking snaps with the second- and third-team offenses.
Kirby Freeman, a true freshman, will redshirt this season unless one or two of the other three scholarship quarterbacks gets hurt.
Recent QB signees: Crudup and T.J Prunty (baseball) in 2000; Buck Ortega (moved to tight end) in 2001; Berlin and Marc Guillon (transfer/Alabama) in 2002; Wright in 2003; Freeman in 2004.
Rix Remains Under Microscope
TALLAHASSEE With 34 career starts, Florida State senior Chris Rix not only has more experience than any quarterback Bobby Bowden has coached in 39 years, but he's the only fourth-year starter in the career of the all-time Division I-A wins leader.
Poised to become FSU's all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, Rix has another distinction that sets him apart. The 10 losses he's absorbed equal the number the Seminoles totaled from 1993-2000.
Arguably the most physically gifted quarterback in program history, Rix has never been much at valuing the possession of the football. In the 10 defeats alone, he committed 24 turnovers 15 interceptions to go along with nine lost fumbles.
Those errors led not only to defeat and criticism, but they forced Bowden to reel in the reins on what was once one of the nation's most prolific offenses, especially when it came to facing in-state-turned-ACC rival Miami. Thanks in part to Rix, the days of the four-wide spread and the no-huddle offense are gone.
So how do the Seminoles plan to attack a potential national championship schedule with Rix at the helm? Revert to the old days, spread the field and chuck it around.
"Based on his practice during spring training and his practice during the preseason camp, we've just taken the road that we ain't going to hold nothing back," Bowden said. "Whatever we want to do, we're going to try because we think he's ready for it. In other words, there are no limits like in the past."
Rix looked quite comfortable in the preseason executing FSU's revised offensive scheme, one that will borrow a little from the West Coast style in an attempt to sustain drives by getting the team's playmakers the ball in open space. It appears as if the Seminoles have attempted to accomplish this by limiting Rix's reads, then always having a pair of safety-valve options.
"I would not feel uncomfortable at all if we were to go out there and throw the ball around with Chris," equally maligned offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said. "His decision-making right now has been as good as it's ever been. We are going to do whatever we can."
By putting the ball in Rix's hands, and allowing him to throw or use his 4.4 speed, the Seminoles are betting that history won't repeat itself in an attempt to write a new chapter that will include a third national championship.
It's win-or-else time in Tallahassee, not only because Rix will have an outstanding supporting cast, but also because redshirt sophomore Wyatt Sexton has yet to prove he's the heir apparent to the throne.
Sexton, the son of FSU running backs coach Jimmy Sexton, is a gifted passer whose inability to dodge defenders has been on display for some time. Unlike Rix, Sexton knows where he can throw the ball, though he has yet to prove he can do it under pressure.
Meanwhile, what is certain to make for an interesting spring is the continued development of true freshmen Xavier Lee and Drew Weatherford. The strong-armed, prep All-American duo represent the future of the program, which will arrive as soon as Rix walks out the door, title in hand or not.
Recent QB signees: Rix in 2000; Matt Henshaw (moved to tight end), Joe Mauer (pro baseball), Adrian McPherson (dismissed/Arena League) and Fabian Walker (transfer/Valdosta State) in 2001; Lorne Sam (moved to receiver) and Sexton in 2002; none in 2003; Lee and Weatherford in 2004.
Durant Seeking Another Record
CHAPEL HILL North Carolina carried a truckload of questions into the 2004 season, but the one place the Tar Heels definitely have an answer is at quarterback.
Fifth-year senior Darian Durant has evolved from an immature sophomore who nearly walked out on his teammates to the unquestioned leader of his team. He entered this fall with 47 school records, including Carolina's career marks for total offense (7,204), passing yards (6,517), touchdown passes (51) and completion percentage (60.8).
"You are automatically cloaked with extra confidence when you leave the huddle with Darian Durant," senior center Jason Brown said. "He knows a lot about the game of football. He's composed, and he's going to make great decisions."
UNC linebacker Tommy Richardson calls Durant "the record-setter."
"The thing that gets me with Durant is his poise," Richardson said. "A lot of times, we're blitzing, running past him with hands in his face, and he still throws a perfect ball. I think he's an incredible player, not an athlete a player."
He also is a player who almost never emerged at UNC. After splitting time with Ronald Curry as a co-starter during his redshirt freshman season, Durant quit the team prior to spring practice in 2002, even announcing his transfer plans at a press conference. When he returned, he spent that spring and fall winning back his job and his teammates' trust.
Those issues have long since been settled. Now he is out front in the Tar Heels' campaign to win again. Durant studied much more film than ever during the offseason. He worked harder overall, but most importantly, he led his team. He organized voluntary workouts and made sure his teammates saw him taking care of business.
"I give him a lot of credit," offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill said. "Starting at the end of last year, he went through misery. We all did. I think he finally came to the realization there were some things he had to do to become a top-notch quarterback. From that point on, through the winter work, through spring practice, through this summer, he spent a ton of time on his own, studying tape, organizing the kids. Those are things we've been harping on for a long time."
Durant said he even looked to a rival for inspiration.
"I think I've matured so much," Durant said. "I've been watching (former N.C. State quarterback) Philip Rivers a lot. He rarely gets a delay of game. That's the thing I'm trying to work on. I know I have the ability to make a play. I have to manage the game better and get everybody in the right position and then be able to make plays."
Durant already has proven himself in almost every manner. He holds most of the school records for quarterbacks, although his career mark as a starter was just 5-17 coming into this season. In any event, the Tar Heels must keep their starter healthy. If something happens to Durant, quarterback becomes as big a question mark as there is on the team.
At 6-2 and 210 pounds, Matt Baker has enough size and toughness to do the job. What he lacks is game experience. A redshirt junior from Michigan, Baker has played little in his time on campus, and he has struggled at times in practice with his accuracy and decision-making. Tranquill has a pretty good history with fifth-year seniors, including some surprises, but it's highly speculative to project the same success for Baker at this point.
Roger Heinz is a 6-2, 205-pound redshirt freshman who is pushing Baker for the job as Durant's backup. His teammates recently voted him "most likely to become a coach some day," and coaches rave about his advanced understanding of the game at such a young age. As a prep prospect in Florida, he led his team to three straight Class 1A titles, but he remains an unproven commodity at the ACC level.
The only other scholarship QB on this year's Carolina roster is 6-2, 225-pound freshman Joey Bozich of Illinois. He didn't join the team until just before summer camp.
"We became very interested in him late in the recruiting process," UNC coach John Bunting said. "He was kind of an unknown of sorts, because he only had one year of starting. He played behind a quarterback (Brad Bower, now at Illinois) who broke all kinds of records in high school. (Bozich) played linebacker until his senior year. He's a big kid. He really came on as a senior. He planned to go to prep school. We were fortunate he came to visit us in late July and committed to us. We were excited and said, 'We will see you next year.'"
Then incoming freshman Michael Rozier, at two-sport star in high school, signed with the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher instead of attending Carolina, and a spot opened.
"We said, 'Hey, how'd you like to come now?'" Bunting said. "It just worked out. He's a really neat kid. He has got a strong arm. He's a strong, workout-type kid. To all of our benefit, he has already demonstrated he's a take-charge guy."
UNC just has to hope no one but Durant will need to take charge in 2004.
Recent QB signees: Durant and Aaron Leak (dismissed/Troy State) in 2000; Baker, Terrance Highsmith (dismissed/Iowa State) and C.J. Stephens (graduated) in 2001; none in 2002; Nick Cangelosi (transfer/Georgetown) and Heinz in 2003; Bozich and Rozier (pro baseball) in 2004.
Eddy Landreth, Chapel Hill (N.C.) News
Ripe Randall Readying Rookies
BLACKSBURG After a summer in which Virginia Tech quarterback Bryan Randall was supposed to be challenged for a starting job, he finally is starting to be appreciated.
Randall has been much of what Tech hoped he would be when he arrived in Blacksburg as a Parade All-American in 2000. He is 612 total yards away from Tech's career record in the category. He's also 1,613 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes and 165 completions away from additional career marks with the Hokies.
While the records are nice, Randall is more interested in getting Tech back into the Top 25. The Hokies weren't ranked in the preseason polls for the first time since 1998.
"We expected the team to be in the Top 25 every year, and that's not necessarily a good thing," said Randall, a senior. "Nothing is given to you. I think it's kind of a message to some of the guys on the team, that you're not just going to be going out and have an eight-win season and, 'OK, since you go to Virginia Tech, you'll be ranked in the top 25 anyway the next year.' You've got to go out and earn it."
At 6-0 and 228 pounds, Randall does not have NFL prototype size, but he is faster than he was last season. Tech coordinator Bryan Stinespring called at least 10 running plays specifically for Randall against Southern Cal in the Hokies' recent opener, and coach Frank Beamer said similar amounts of runs by Randall should be expected throughout the fall.
"I don't think you play football carefully," Beamer said. "You've got to do what you can do and take advantage of what your personnel can do."
All of these numbers are coming from a guy Kevin Rogers, Tech's widely respected quarterbacks coach, wondered about the first time he saw him in December 2001. Rogers questioned if Randall had what it takes to be a starting quarterback for a Division I-A team. Now the staff sees pretty good production from a player who was supposed to be challenged by Marcus Vick this summer.
The threat to Randall's job never materialized, of course, because Vick was suspended from the university for the fall semester after convictions on three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in May, and one count each of reckless driving and marijuana possession in August.
Randall spent his summer mentoring two freshmen who have become his backups this fall, as well as mentoring troubled youths in inner-city Los Angeles along with Tech linebacker James Anderson. In stark contrast to Vick, Randall developed into a role model.
Cory Holt, one of Tech's rookie quarterbacks, was one of the first to sign up for the Randall fan club.
"He's a father, a coach, he's everything," Holt said before the season.
Vick's departure immediately tossed Holt and fellow freshman Sean Glennon into hurry-up-and-grow mode. Glennon, 6-3 and 200 pounds, held an edge over Holt with his mental approach in the preseason and started the fall as Tech's No. 2 quarterback. A sore throwing elbow in late August hampered the 6-4, 220-pound Holt.
For Rogers, Randall's presence has been like having another coach on the field. But even with Randall's guidance, the freshmen still have a long way to go.
"I've got an expression I use, and that's, 'when you think you know it, you don't know it,'" Rogers said. "Not until you can react to it do you know it. That's the problem. It's an occupational hazard you're going to have with guys who haven't taken snaps."
Recent QB signees: Jason Davis (transfer/East Tennessee State) in 2000; Chris Clifton (moved to receiver), Will Hunt (left team) and Randall in 2001; Vick in 2002; Holt in 2003; Glennon and Holt (re-sign) in 2004.
Mauk May Challenge Randolph
WINSTON-SALEM Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe hopes quarterback Cory Randolph can spend most of the 2004 season looking over opposing defenses, instead of over his shoulder at Ben Mauk. At the same time, Grobe hopes Mauk, a redshirt freshman, can play well enough to push Randolph.
It's a fine line, one that's difficult to walk. Randolph is the incumbent, a redshirt junior who had a decent season last year after taking over as the starter. Mauk is the record-setting prepster who outplayed Randolph in the spring game. Grobe said he plans to play Mauk for at least a series in each game, but the trick will be to keep everyone on an even keel.
Working Mauk in could help Randolph, if he can study the defense for a series, or it could break his rhythm. It could help Mauk gain experience, or it could create a fan frenzy to see more of him, putting Randolph under severe pressure. There's an old football saying that the most popular player on the team is the backup quarterback, and that easily could be the case in Winston-Salem this fall.
Randolph spent most of last year teasing fans with his ability. He's quick, strong and can throw the ball, but he never seemed to put that all together for a long stretch. Great passes often were followed by periods of overthrows. He did improve as the season went on, with seven interceptions in the first six games to just three in the last six.
Wake's staff didn't feel as if it could unleash Randolph in 2003, especially on the ground, because he really had no available backup for much of the season. This time, with Mauk behind him, expect the Deacons to exploit Randolph's running ability more.
Publicly, Grobe has stuck with Randolph, even after a spring game in which Mauk stole the show. Grobe maintains that the competition has been good for Randolph, pushing him to get better, and the coach expects to see more consistency from his starter as he continues to add maturity and experience.
"The thing I like about (Randolph), he's a much more veteran quarterback," Grobe said. "He's making a lot better decisions. He's being a lot more patient with what he's doing with the football. He's kind of letting everything develop before he's making a decision. He's not forcing balls in. Last year, I felt there was never a covered receiver, as far as he was concerned. He felt he could get everything in there."
Mauk is described by quarterbacks coach Jeff Mullen in this year's media guide as a "clone of Cory Randolph." That might surprise many Wake fans, who know Mauk only as the high schooler who set national records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season.
In the spring game, Mauk proved he could get it done with his feet, too. He ran for 92 yards, including a 61-yard dash. He does hold the ball in the pocket longer than Randolph, which can be a good thing, but that habit might be dangerous this season behind an inexperienced offensive line. Mauk also got the benefit of a hamstring injury to Randolph early in fall practice, which gave him a lot of extra reps with the first team.
"The nice thing about Ben is you see him every day getting better," Grobe said. "Every practice he's better. He's making better decisions."
Mauk appears to be humble enough to handle all of the attention he's sure to get after one good series behind Randolph. Upon dominating the spring game, Mauk volunteered to move to another position if that's what the coaches needed.
Both players are well-respected by their teammates for their work ethics. However, Randolph never quite grabbed the team as "his" last season. That's another wrinkle that often can develop in two-quarterback systems, as one takes a stronger leadership role among his teammates.
If Grobe can walk that fine line all year, he has a chance to get more production and big plays out of the QB position than Wake has had since Brian Kuklick in the 1990s.
The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster is Allan Holland, an unheralded 2004 signee from Kentucky. He's 6-2, 220 pounds and has a rocket arm, though, and he's very athletic. The Wake staff hopes it can bring him along slowly, which it should have a chance to do, with two years to play for Randolph and four for Mauk.
Recent QB signees: Anthony Young (moved to receiver) in 2000; Randolph and Nick Smith (transfer/James Madison) in 2001; Nate Morton (moved to receiver) and Zac Taylor (transfer/Butler County CC) in 2002; Bruce Hall (transfer/Troy State) and Mauk in 2003; Holland in 2004.
Ramblin' Wreck Having A Ball
ATLANTA Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey made the boldest decision of his short tenure last fall, tabbing true freshman Reggie Ball as his starting quarterback over incumbent A.J. Suggs and then-sophomore Damarius Bilbo.
Ball made Gailey look smart, guiding the Yellow Jackets to a 7-6 record and earning the ACC rookie of the year award.
The honor overshadowed what had been an inconsistent season for Ball, a fiery 5-11 competitor. Tech fans carried Ball off the field on their shoulders after the Jackets upset Auburn early in the season, cementing their love affair with the rookie. There was plenty to like including his scrappiness, emotion, playmaking ability and bravado, encapsulated by his "we will not lose again" comments after the Florida State game.
Besides creating unnecessary bulletin-board material for opponents, Ball also showed uneven accuracy and a penchant for making poor decisions. He threw nine interceptions in Tech's six losses. At times, his emotions and competitiveness overflowed in detrimental ways.
Now beginning his sophomore season, Ball worked all summer to fix most of that. His knowledge of the offense, his ability to read defenses and his mechanics got the most work, with Ball working hard to stop dropping his elbow and winding up in his delivery. Equipped with a year of experience, Ball seems poised for a break-out season, as the Yellow Jackets have surrounded him with some quality weapons.
Clearly, Gailey's big gamble has paid off so far, and not just on the field. Ball has given a face to the program, and his high-profile freshman season has helped Tech on the recruiting trail.
In the midst of Ball's emergence, the future of his classmate Patrick Carter at quarterback has come into question. Seemingly always nicked up with some ailment, Carter has not been able to establish himself as a reliable backup, and some in and around the Tech program privately have begun to express doubts that he has the toughness to play QB.
Many expected him to battle Ball in the spring, but Carter injured his knee. Now he might not even be the top backup this fall.
Gailey moved senior Mark Logan from receiver to quarterback in August because he was unhappy with the play behind Ball. A South Carolina prep product, Logan arrived at Tech as potentially, of course the next Joe Hamilton. Things never quite worked out that way, and Logan has been a reserve receiver for the last three years. He moved back to quarterback this spring but had worked out at receiver for most of preseason camp.
But Carter's stumbles and freshman Taylor Bennett's struggles prompted Gailey to move Logan back to quarterback and intimated that Logan could be the No. 2 QB soon.
Bennett, an unheralded true freshman from St. Louis, enrolled in school early and stayed on campus this summer to learn the offense. A left-hander, he throws a nice ball and has a decent grasp on the offense, but he completed just two of 20 passes in two preseason scrimmages and the staff decided to redshirt him.
Ball's presence has not stopped the Yellow Jackets from bringing in quarterbacks. In addition to Bennett, Kyle Manley is a true freshman at the position this fall. Manley, out of nearby Buford, also is expected to redshirt this season.
Recent QB signees: Logan (moved to receiver) and Brandon Sumner (transfer/Central Florida) in 2000; Bilbo (moved to receiver), Rahshan Johnson (transfer/Bowling Green), Dawan Landry (moved to safety) and Tennessee transfer A.J. Suggs (graduated) in 2001; none in 2002; Ball, Carter and Al Pena (transfer/Oklahoma State) in 2003; Bennett and Manley in 2004.
Hagans: Strong Arm, Quick Feet
CHARLOTTESVILLE Of the five scholarship quarterbacks on Virginia's 2003 football roster, four were SuperPrep All-Americans.
The fifth? Oh, he's only the 2004 starter, Marques Hagans.
The Cavaliers subsequently replaced one of their prep All-American QBs, two-year starter Matt Schaub, with less-touted freshman Scott Deke. But that may be a good sign for Deke. Hagans has proved at least so far that it's not just about press clippings.
In fact, at this point a year ago, Hagans wasn't even working at quarterback. He had been moved to receiver, and it appeared that UVa had a line of succession established behind Schaub.
Then-redshirt freshman Anthony Martinez and true freshman Kevin McCabe were battling for the No. 2 job and, on the eve of the season, Christian Olsen transferred from Notre Dame. Considering that he had been the No. 2 QB at Notre Dame, as well as the offensive MVP of the Irish's spring game, Olsen loomed as the heir apparent.
Nobody is writing off Olsen at this point, but it made headlines when UVa coach Al Groh proclaimed 10 days before the opener that, if a second quarterback played in a game at that point, it would be McCabe.
Martinez, listed at 6-2 and 254 pounds, was so out of condition when he arrived for preseason drills that he did not participate in regular workouts for several days. Although Groh said the three quarterbacks behind Hagans had performed at a comparable level, Martinez appeared to lag behind McCabe and Olsen.
Rumors lingered throughout the spring and summer that Martinez either would transfer or join the Cavaliers' baseball team, and that still could happen. His situation parallels Hagans' in that both players started a college game before they were ready, Hagans as a redshirt freshman at Florida State in the second week of the 2002 season and Martinez as a redshirt freshman at South Carolina in the second week of the 2003 campaign.
Hagans redeemed himself last year at Western Michigan and, if Martinez had a similar opportunity, maybe he would do the same thing. However, Martinez and Hagans have two completely different styles. Martinez is a dropback passer with marginal escapability; Hagans, despite his relatively short (5-9) stature, has a very strong arm and the ability to make plays with his feet.
"He has awareness and presence," Groh said. "Marques has worked very hard this summer in becoming the complete quarterback, and I expect great things from him. ... We've done a few things (as a coaching staff) to accommodate his skills."
If all four quarterbacks were close, or if there were even a second quarterback close to Hagans, the Cavaliers might have been well-served to leave Hagans at receiver. He had 28 receptions in spot duty last year and also was a dangerous punt returner. He probably won't return punts this year because he is almost indispensable at quarterback.
"I didn't argue when they put me at receiver, and I didn't argue when they put me back at quarterback," Hagans said. "I just do what my coach tells me to do."
Hagans' performance last year at Western Michigan (three TD passes, 230 yards in total offense) was so impressive that he single-handedly might have changed Groh's philosophy. Within weeks of Hagans' start in Kalamazoo, Mich., Virginia took a commitment from another quarterback in the 5-9 range, record-setting Vic Hall of in-state Gretna High.
Since then, UVa has added a commitment from Jameel Sewell, a more prototypical dropback passer from Hermitage High in Richmond. Many recruiting services have projected Hall as an "athlete" who will not play quarterback in college, but depending on how the next two years play out for Hagans, anything is possible.
Recent QB signees: Billy Schweitzer (transfer/Trinity) in 2000; Hagans and Heath Miller (moved to tight end) in 2001; Martinez in 2002; McCabe and Olsen in 2003; Deke in 2004.
Doug Doughty, Roanoke (Va.) Times
Wolfpack Will Test Davis, Stone
RALEIGH N.C. State coach Chuck Amato figures everybody is waiting for the Wolfpack to have a quarterback controversy.
"I can just hear you people and our fans," Amato said before the Pack's first game. "The first time he goes x-for-y, you will all say that Philip would have gone y-for-y. You can't wait for that to happen."
The truth is, Amato is begging for a controversy. He spent the preseason dangling the announcement of Philip Rivers' replacement like an unreachable bunch of grapes to the media, when it was pretty apparent to offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone throughout the preseason that junior Jay Davis was the guy all along.
The reason Amato wants everyone to get worked into a lather about the starting quarterback is that it essentially won't matter, as long as the guy can hand the ball off to any of the Wolfpack's four talented tailbacks and hit some wide-open receivers on play-action passes. That's what the NCSU offense will look like this year.
So it doesn't really matter that Davis has nothing more tangible than a little game experience (10 appearances total over two seasons) and a greater sense of confidence over redshirt freshman Marcus Stone. Davis isn't as athletic, not as strong, not as mobile as Stone. But he has a Rivers-like background as the son of a coach and a knowledge of the Wolfpack offense that goes back to his playing career at Clearwater Central Catholic High in Florida, where Davis' dad ran a BYU-style scheme.
"It was always my philosophy that I didn't know what I can do," Davis said. "I still don't know what I can do. I haven't been put in that situation (to be a starter). We are about to find out quick what I can do. I am excited to see if I can play football or not."
What allowed Davis to beat out Stone for the most questioned starting job in the ACC this season is his experience in the program, even if he was mostly a spectator behind Rivers. As Amato has noted frequently, though, Rivers was an aberration, a talented but green player who landed in the perfect position at the perfect time and made the most of his opportunity. Fifty-one games without a different starter later, the Wolfpack now has to pay the price for Rivers' unprecedented longevity and success.
"This is the way it is supposed to go," said Amato, whose experiences at FSU taught him that QBs needed seasoning. "You look at most all the teams that are up there (at the top of the polls). They are recruiting quarterbacks with a couple of years in between them. They wait their turn."
That also means now that Stone, who has a stronger arm and better measurables than Davis, will have to wait even longer for his opportunity, something he sensed throughout the preseason.
"There's a little frustration, but I'm not too upset," Stone said. "I said before that it's Coach Amato's decision, and we're going to go by it. I feel he made the right decision. I'm just going to stay focused, keep learning what we're doing and keep observing. I'll be ready when I get my chance."
Stone likely will get much more of an opportunity to show his stuff this year than Davis did in his first year of eligibility. Amato wants to put Stone in more often and in different (read: non-mop-up) situations as the season goes along, even if that means playing the likes of Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Miami and FSU with a freshman quarterback at times. That's better than drumming up a quarterback controversy every couple of years.
The only other returning scholarship quarterback in the program is sophomore Chris Moore, who has led the scout team for the last two years. An unheralded signee in 2002, he entered September a distant third in a very interesting two-man race.
In February, after missing on a number of higher-profile QB targets, N.C. State signed little-known Raleigh prospect Daniel Evans, a son of former Wolfpack great Johnny Evans. Daniel is expected to redshirt this season.
Recent QB signees: Rivers (graduated) and juco transfer Olin Hannum (graduated) in 2000; Davis in 2001; Moore in 2002; Stone in 2003; Evans in 2004.
Statham Starting, Steffy Lurking
COLLEGE PARK Many knowledgeable observers of Maryland football believe true freshman Jordan Steffy is the quarterback of the future for the Terps, and Joel Statham simply will keep the seat warm this season while Steffy matures.
Based on Steffy's impressive preseason, that statement is difficult to refute. The highly touted rookie has picked up Maryland's complex offense faster than any quarterback in the four-year tenure of coach Ralph Friedgen, and Steffy spent August camp displaying his tremendous skills and working his way into the backup position behind Statham.
Friedgen and offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe already have stated that Steffy has the strongest arm and is the best pure athlete among the team's many signal-callers.
A product of Conestoga Valley High in Pennsylvania, Steffy possesses good size (6-1, 210), above-average speed (4.5 in the 40) and surprising strength (300 bench, 510 squat). A consensus prep All-American, he was the jewel of Maryland's 2004 recruiting class, choosing the Terps over Clemson, Michigan State, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
Steffy quickly lived up to the advanced billing, rocketing past returning signal-callers Ryan Mitch and Sam Hollenbach into the No. 2 slot on the depth chart. It was obvious to anyone who watched August practices that Steffy was more physically gifted than the other two reserves, but it was somewhat surprising when Friedgen said he also had a better grasp of the system and was making fewer mental mistakes.
"Jordan has kind of bypassed (Mitch and Hollenbach) in terms of mental awareness and playmaking ability," said Taaffe, who doubles as the Terps' quarterbacks coach. "He's far from a finished product, but the thing he brings that you can't coach is instinctiveness and athleticism. He's strong and a threat with the ball. He already runs our option package like Joel."
Such praise undoubtedly is disconcerting to Mitch and Hollenbach, who have to be worried about getting leapfrogged by a younger player.
Hollenbach, at 6-5 and 218 pounds, is more of a classic dropback passer. However, the redshirt sophomore surprised the staff with his improved footwork and quickness during spring practice and at the time emerged second on the depth chart after a solid showing in the annual Red-White scrimmage. He was in position to firm up that status in August, but he regressed in terms of reading defenses and throwing the ball. He often took too long to make his reads, then pulled the trigger and tossed interceptions. All along, he's been a poor fit for the Terps' option package.
Mitch made the biggest jump during preseason practice, surpassing Hollenbach and battling Steffy to the wire for the backup job. Rebounding from a poor spring and summer, the prep All-American from local powerhouse DeMatha Catholic dramatically improved his decision-making and delivery. But he is a bit limited athletically, he too struggled with the option, and he still often reacted to blitzes poorly.
While Hollenbach was a distant No. 4 and couldn't complain about the final pecking order established by Friedgen, Mitch was not nearly as happy about being named No. 3. He abruptly quit the team toward the end of August two-a-days. He admittedly "lost it" after getting criticized by Taaffe for his handling of blitz situations during a Sunday practice. He threw his helmet and left the field visibly upset, angered enough to go AWOL for two days, although he returned to the team after meetings with Friedgen and Taaffe.
All the while, Statham has been head and shoulders above the competition, largely as a result of having played in a regular-season game a year ago. Entering September, Statham clearly was the most complete package of all the young quarterbacks, as he combines a strong arm, solid athleticism, toughness and superior knowledge of the system.
"Joel does the best job of getting the team in and out of the huddle, and he puts us in the right play all the time," Friedgen said. "I think the gap between Joel and the other guys actually grew during this camp."
A product of Murray County High in Georgia, Statham selected the Terps over Auburn and Georgia, largely because of the presence of Friedgen. Statham is an athletic signal-caller who rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a high school senior.
Provided all of the current candidates in the stable stay in College Park, Maryland's quarterback situation looks OK through 2007. The presence of four capable QBs prompted the coaching staff to switch a pair of true freshmen, Dan Gronkowski and Erin Henderson, to other positions in August.
Recent QB signees: juco Shaun Hill (graduated) and Chris Kelley (moved to safety) in 2000; West Virginia transfer Scott McBrien (graduated) in 2001; juco Orlando Evans (graduated), Hollenbach and Statham in 2002; Mitch in 2003; Dan Gronkowski (moved to tight end), Erin Henderson (moved to linebacker) and Steffy in 2004.
Duke Desperately Seeking Depth
DURHAM When Ted Roof, a defensive coach, took over as the interim head coach at Duke in the middle of the 2003 season, he immediately engineered a dramatic change in the quarterback rotation.
Duke, which ultimately finished seventh in the ACC in passing offense, eighth in total offense and last in scoring, played three quarterbacks, often alternating on play after play.
Somehow, it worked. The Blue Devils broke their 30-game conference losing streak with 41 points against Georgia Tech. They had 30 more in a victory over North Carolina.
Now Roof is the official coach. His offensive coordinator is Marty Galbraith, straight from Arizona of the NFL, the man whose offense at N.C. State shattered a bunch of school records in 2002. The new quarterbacks coach is Tom Knotts, whose Charlotte Independence High teams won 62 straight games and four consecutive state championships.
So what will they do offensively with a team that is extremely young up front, lost its top two runners and kicked its top receiver out of school? Nobody's certain, but the Blue Devils will utilize a short passing game and they will play two maybe even three quarterbacks on a regular basis.
The Devils are not at all likely to play more than three signal-callers this season, mainly because they are the only team in the ACC (and likely one of the few in the nation) with only two full-time quarterbacks on scholarship. The team's third full-time QB is 6-0 sophomore walk-on Kevin Cronin, whose status is identified by his jersey number, 88.
Mike Schneider, a 6-2, 215-pound sophomore, again will be Duke's leading man this fall. He started eight games as a redshirt freshman, completing just 46.6 percent of his passes for four touchdowns and six interceptions. He has the strongest arm on the team, but his longest gain last season was 40 yards. His 1,401 passing yards was the 12th-most for a freshman in ACC history. He missed the last half of spring practice with a broken thumb and also was sidelined for two games in 2003 because of injury.
Fifth-year senior Chris Dapolito, a Rutgers transfer, had his career revived from the scrap heap by the coaching change. He played in just one of the first seven games. With Roof at the helm, he divided time first with Schneider, then with Adam Smith, a sophomore who transferred to Division I-AA Western Illinois after the season.
Dapolito got the start as Duke whipped UNC for the first time in 14 years. A better runner than Schneider, Dapolito was 30-for-54 through the air for the season, with two TDs and two picks. He also rushed for 85 yards, including 42 against the Tar Heels. Dapolito, highly popular, won the Ace Parker Award given to the player who displays unparalleled commitment to the team. Even though he's a backup, he recently was selected as one of the 2004 team captains by the squad.
Curt Dukes, 6-1, 215, is a sophomore transfer from Nebraska, a program he chose because he was an All-American option quarterback in high school, at Newton-Conover High in North Carolina. Dukes sometimes works with the QBs, but he'll play there primarily when Duke wants to run the option. Otherwise, he's a fullback, H-back and wide receiver.
"He's one of our best players," Roof said. "We can't afford to have him standing next to me. ... Our need is to be efficient. We need to get the ball in his hands."
Recent QB signees: Adam Smith (transfer/Western Illinois) and Chris Wispelwey (graduated) in 2000; Dapolito in 2001; Schneider in 2002; Dukes in 2003; none in 2004.
ACC QUARTERBACKS: THREE-DEEP DEPTH CHARTS, RANKINGS
|Rank/School||First Team||Second Team||Third Team||The PooP|
|1. Clemson||Charlie Whitehurst/Jr.||Will Proctor/So.||Chansi Stuckey/So.+||Clutch, Savvy Whitehurst Could Be League MVP; Others Not Ready|
|2. Miami||Brock Berlin/Sr.||Derrick Crudup/Sr.||Kyle Wright/Fr.||No Superstars (Yet), But Three Guys Who Could Win Games This Fall|
|3. Florida State||Chris Rix/Sr.||Wyatt Sexton/So.||Drew Weatherford/Fr.^||Now Or Never For Talented But Tormented Rix, A Four-Year Starter|
|4. North Carolina||Darian Durant/Sr.||Matt Baker/Jr.||Roger Heinz/Fr.||Durant Already Boasts 47 School Records For QB-Deficient Program|
|5. Virginia Tech||Bryan Randall/Sr.||Sean Glennon/Fr.||Cory Holt/Fr.||Randall Getting Better With Age, But Vick Situation Destroyed Depth|
|6. Wake Forest||Cory Randolph/Jr.||Ben Mauk/Fr.||Allan Holland/Fr.^||Top Two Offer Interesting Combination Of Athleticism, Passing Skills|
|7. Georgia Tech||Reggie Ball/So.||Patrick Carter/Fr.||Mark Logan/Sr.||ACC Rookie Of Year (2003) Emerged To Prevent Depth-Chart Mess|
|8. Virginia||Marques Hagans/Jr.||Kevin McCabe/Fr.||Christian Olsen/So.||Run-Pass Threat Hagans Must Mesh Quickly With West Coast Offense|
|9. N.C. State||Jay Davis/Jr.||Marcus Stone/Fr.||Chris Moore/So.||Davis' Experience, Smarts Edge Stone's NFL-Type Flair For Now|
|10. Maryland||Joel Statham/So.||Jordan Steffy/Fr.||Ryan Mitch/Fr.||Statham Grasps System Best, But Everyone Loves Steffy's Potential|
|11. Duke||Mike Schneider/So.||Chris Dapolito/Sr.||Curt Dukes/So.||Serious Long-Term Concerns Being Addressed With Recruiting Blitz|