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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

At Some Stops, Planning for the Future

Preparations have begun in Houston and Boise for life after the current record-setting quarterback leaves town. This isn’t a comforting time for either program, as well as a few others nearing the point where it must say goodbye to an old hand, but such is life in college football: four years if you’re lucky, three — or less — if you’re not, and it always pays to be prepared. A few schools have wisely thrown the heir apparent into the mix, knowing there will come a time when Kellen Moore’s shoes will be filled by another, but others are tempting fate by riding the 2011 starter and letting 2012 remain a distant point in the future.

Some teams, like Michigan State, can’t afford to get the younger option some snaps. When was Andrew Maxwell going to play against Wisconsin? In that case, the Spartans gave Maxwell garbage time against Youngstown State, Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan. Meaningless snaps, of course, but for all the time Maxwell may get on the practice field there’s no substituting for live action.

Ditto for Oklahoma State, which rides Brandon Weeden’s arm through thick and thin while doing its best to give Clint Chelf some time in the fourth quarter. Chelf has played in three games thus far, attempting passes in two; most of his work came against Kansas, when he played much of the second half.

Convenience has allowed Boise State to get Moore’s backup, Joe Southwick, in six games. Southwick isn’t rearing back and letting it rip, mainly because when he does replace Moore, the score is typically so lopsided as to make passing meaningless and worthless, if not some combination of the pair.

Other schools have had their future issues settled for them, largely because of injuries. After Case Keenum was lost for the season a little more than two games into 2010, Houston was able to get an up-close look at sophomore David Piland, his projected replacement. Piland’s eight-game audition went well enough where Houston opted to redshirt him in 2011, leaving the backup job to Cotton Turner and saving Piland a season of eligibility.

Northwestern once looked at life without Dan Persa as cause for alarm; the Wildcats should still be worried about moving ahead without Persa, who will clearly not be the same in 2011 after last season’s Achilles tear, but his injury has opened the door for Kain Colter to cement his place as the full-time starter in 2012.

At Michigan, Denard Robinson’s bouts with injury — and ineffectiveness, as we saw against Michigan State — have led the Wolverines to utilize sophomore Devin Gardner, who continues to look like the more polished passer of the pair. The Wolverines would struggle mightily replacing Robinson’s athletic gifts, but Gardner’s time under center will come in handy in 2012, should Robinson opt to forego his final season of eligibility.

Then there are schools that throw caution to the wind. Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill has attempted all but five of his team’s attempts through the first half of 2011, with one of the remaining five passes going to running back Cyrus Gray. The three quarterbacks assumed to be in competition to be Tannehill’s replacement — Jameill Showers, Johnny Manziel and Matt Joeckel — have combined to make four passes, all by Showers.

Who will replace Austin Davis at Southern Mississippi in 2012? It won’t be easy, given the way Davis has played while healthy, and if Larry Fedora plans on inserting Arsenio Favor into the starting lineup he might be wise to give the freshman a few more snaps. That’s it Fedora himself is planning on being around in 2012; given the way his team is playing, Fedora might be headed for greener pastures.

Recent history suggests that there’s no right answer: a coach can play the heir apparent a lot, a little or not at all, depending on the situation. Take Virginia Tech, which gave Logan Thomas extensive snaps at quarterback in only two games last fall, Wake Forest and Duke, before handing him the keys once Tyrod Taylor exhausted his eligibility.

Seth Doege is lighting the Big 12 afire at Texas Tech, throwing for 441 yards and 4 scores against Oklahoma on Saturday, but he attempted only four passes as the Red Raiders’ third-string quarterback in 2010. T.C.U. got Casey Pachall into the mix more as a runner in 2010, less as a passer, but the sophomore got enough of a workout to pave his way to full-time starting duties.

Auburn needed every yard Cam Newton provided in 2010, but perhaps Barrett Trotter’s limited workload last fall contributed to his short, painful stint as the starter this fall. So while playing the since-departed quarterback didn’t overly damage 2011 hopes for a Virginia Tech or Texas Tech, it might have set Auburn back at the position.

In that case, should Gene Chizik, Gus Malzahn and the Tigers play true freshman Kiehl Frazier as much as possible over the final five games of the season?

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Comments

  1. Rookierookie says:

    Boise State has also ran its share of QB-option packages with the backups. Probably good for its long-term prospects.

  2. 4.0 Point Stance says:

    “Southwick isn’t rearing back and letting it rip, mainly because when he does replace Moore, the score is typically so lopsided as to make passing meaningless and worthless, if not some combination of the pair.”

    Interesting that you mention this. With all the Boise talk around here the last couple of days I got to thinking about your post stating that Boise doesn’t “play the game” by running up the score on inferior opponents, which (supposedly) hurts their BCS ranking. I decided to run the numbers, which is extremely easy thanks to the inestimable cfbstats.com.

    I checked to see the run/pass ratio of what I consider the major unbeatens – Bama, LSU, Clemson, OK State, and Boise – when they are up by more than two TDs (15+ points). Here’s how it pans out – the numbers are the frequency of passes thrown (which will slightly underestimate the number of pass plays called) when up by 15 or more:

    OK State: 54%
    Boise St: 40%
    Clemson : 37% (Small sample size)
    Alabama : 33%
    L.S.U. : 25%

    To be fair to Boise, the 40% is lower than their 48% all-around pass/run ratio, so they do pull the foot off the gas somewhat. And they’re nowhere near as bad as OK State’s Air Raid-esque figure. But the argument that Boise is somehow unusually magnanimous in keeping the clock running and the score down is simply not borne out by the numbers; not this year at least.

  3. Parker says:

    Hi Paul

    At Houston, it’s not just a matter of replacing Keenum.

    We also lose:

    Tyron Carrier
    School career all purpose yards leader
    School career catches leader
    School career kick return TD leader

    Patrick Edwards
    School career receiving yards leader
    School career receiving TD leader

    Bryce Bell
    School career rushing TD leader
    2nd most career rushing yards in school history

    Not to mention standout RB Mike Hayes, and starting WRs Justin Johnson and EJ Smith.

    QB David Piland had a nice freshman year in 2010. And RB Charles Sims is an excellent back. But that’s it for UH skill people with any real experience.

    Needless to say, Houston needs to make hay this season.

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