How’s Your Team’s Succession Plan?
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 30, 2011
Boise State did it better than most. Kellen Moore won’t soon be forgotten — most of all in Boise — but Chris Petersen began preparing for life post-Moore by playing his backup, sophomore Joe Southwick, in eight games: mostly in mop-up duty, though Southwick was used in certain packages when the final verdict remained in doubt. San Diego State did it worse than most. Redshirt freshman Ryan Dingwell, Ryan Lindley’s backup, attempted only one pass all season, in the season opener against Cal Poly, and didn’t take another snap until the win over New Mexico a month later. Then Dingwell went back to the shelf, along with the cobwebs and other little-used reserves.
How’s your succession plan? Solid as a rock, set in stone? Up in the air, completely and utterly undecided? Depth charts for 2012 remain months in the works, likely to be unveiled at the last possible moment prior to kickoff next fall — coaches are a secretive bunch — but a handful of programs have already started the process of turning the page and looking towards the future under center.
For example: Tulsa’s Kalen Henderson took some lumps behind G.J. Kinne, but it’s better to have thrown and lost than not thrown at all, right? Henderson played in five games, most notably against Oklahoma State, which didn’t go well. Against the Cowboys, Henderson completed 6 of 20 attempts for 104 yards with 3 interceptions. Not a good day, but you can’t overestimate the importance of the sort of experience.
The majority opted to ride their senior through thick, thin, win and loss rather than give his projected successor the sort of experience that might come in handy next fall. The vast majority, in fact, have gone this route. This might have something to do with win-at-all-costs and contract extensions, but I digress.
A few teams get a pass. Baylor rode Robert Griffin III all the way to the Heisman, but his backup, senior-to-be Nick Florence, has extensive starting experience. Miami (Fla.) went with Jacory Harris throughout a meaningless season, but like Florence, Stephen Morris has started in the past.
That Texas A&M played Jameill Showers in only five games doesn’t make sense; I know the offense was the least of the Aggies’ concerns, but playing Showers — the likely replacement for Ryan Tannehill — in such a slight fashion is no preparation for the SEC slate that awaits.
Austin Davis barely came off the field for Southern Mississippi. He was finally healthy for an entire season, which was great, but two non-quarterbacks, a receiver and a punter, had more completions that Arsenio Favor, Davis’s backup and heir apparent.
San Diego State’s decision to play Lindley for all but a mere handful of snaps boggles the mind. The Aztecs weren’t going anywhere; well, the Aztecs were going to bowl play, but they weren’t challenging for a Mountain West title. Yet Dingwell rode the pine, making only one attempt all season. Maybe he’s not the future, on the other hand: maybe the future is true freshman Chad Jeffries, who took a redshirt, or a quarterback to be named later.
But there is good news: this isn’t the N.F.L., meaning developments are often made on the practice field, not in real time — you don’t need to play on Saturday to turn into a strong college quarterback, in other words. It just helps, that’s all.
It helped Brandon Weeden’s development to get snaps in both 2008 and 2009 before taking over for Zac Robinson a year ago. Missouri got James Franklin into 10 games in 2010, lessening his transition to the starting lineup after Blaine Gabbert left for the N.F.L. a year ahead of schedule — and the Tigers did the same for Gabbert and Chase Daniel.
Then again, Griffin III stepped right onto campus in Waco and started from day one. Andrew Luck sat for one year before starting his career as a redshirt freshman. Russell Wilson was an immediate starter as a freshman at N.C. State. But these sort of players are the exception, not the rule. Most quarterbacks need the in-game learning curve; only time will tell if teams like San Diego and Texas A&M regret not playing their backup quarterbacks in 2011.
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Tags: Arsenio Favor, Boise State, James Franklin, Joe Southwick, Kalen Henderson, Kellen Moore, Nick Florence, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Dingwell, Ryan Lindley, San Diego State, Stephen Morris
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