The one question that may spark the most interest around the Kansas University football program this season might be the one that takes the longest to answer.
Which of the six Jayhawks wearing red jerseys will replace Todd Reesing as the team’s starting quarterback?
“It’s way too early right now,” KU quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. “Each one has done some good things. But I have to go through a spring, really, to get a good feel for these guys.”
He’s not alone. In a lot of ways, the six QBs vying to be listed atop the team’s depth chart at their position still are trying to get a good feel for things themselves.
Entering spring ball, the list of possible replacements for Reesing included three favorites and a couple of darkhorses. That list grew by one on the third day of practice, when KU basketball guard Conner Teahan — a standout high school quarterback at Rockhurst High in Kansas City, Mo. — decided to go out for the team.
Although Gill has called Teahan “a longshot” to win the job, his presence further muddies the water that the KU staff is trying peer through in search of a starter.
“They’re all getting good reps now,” Long said. “But as time goes by, we’re not going to be able to give all six the same number of reps. We have to whittle it down coming out of spring. Who knows how much.”
The one quarterback on KU’s roster who even comes close to resembling a known commodity is red-shirt sophomore-to-be Kale Pick, who served as Reesing’s back-up in 2009. Pick, 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, appeared in seven games last season but threw just five passes, completing four of them for 22 yards. More often than not, Pick was asked to show off his skills as a running quarterback. He gained 167 yards on 14 carries and was responsible for the team’s two longest runs from scrimmage.
Also in the running for first-team snaps are red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb and junior-college transfer Quinn Mecham.
Webb, 6-foot, 210, hails from Union (Mo.) High. Mecham, 6-2, 207, comes to KU from perennial powerhouse Snow College, a juco in Ephraim, Utah. In 2009, Mecham led Snow to a 10-2 record, a top-five national ranking and threw for 3,091 yards and 40 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.
Along with that trio, red-shirt freshman Christian Matthews, 6-1, 186, and red-shirt junior Jacob Morse, 6-3, 195, will join Teahan in an attempt to make this year’s battle more than a three-horse race.
KU coach Turner Gill, a quarterback himself at Nebraska in the 1980s, did not make any of the quarterbacks available to the media during the first week of spring practices. All of them are expected to talk with reporters Monday, but, for now, it’s been up to their teammates to do the talking for them.
“It’s going to be a fight,” sophomore wideout Bradley McDougald said. “We’ve got a lot of great quarterbacks.”
Added senior defensive back Chris Harris: “I’ve been able to see ’em a lot so far. They came out here and managed the offense well and looked like they had a good grasp on what we’re doing. That’s exciting to see. I wasn’t here when we had a quarterback battle with Todd (Reesing) and Kerry (Meier) (prior to the 2007 season), so it’s exciting to see all of them battle.”
Gill does not appear to be overly concerned about how the quarterback position will shake out. For one, he has great confidence in his staff’s ability to assess talent and make the right selection. Secondly, he has faith in his own criteria for evaluating the position. Gill said the quarterback who wins the job will do so for four reasons.
“He’s going to take care of the football,” Gill said. “He’s going to raise the level of play of all the people around him. He’s going to show his leadership. And he’s going to show why the people there are excited about him being in that huddle. That’s it.
“They’re going to make mistakes, I understand that,” he added. “It’s a whole new terminology and all those things. But (we’ll look at) how they carry themselves and how the team responds to them, both good and bad.”
Long, who was a standout quarterback and Heisman Trophy runner-up at the University of Iowa before playing five seasons in the NFL, said he would evaluate this year’s group based on one thing.
“Even if I had a starting role or starting position, I always felt like the next guy could beat me out,” Long said. “Quarterbacks have to have that inner competitive drive, even when they’re the starter, that says, ‘Hey, I’m going to keep this job, no one’s going to take it from me, so I’m going to be a perfectionist in everything I do.’ If you don’t have that then you get beat out. So that’s what you look for.”
Added Gill: “We’ve got two guys who definitely know how to handle quarterbacks.”
Spring ball heating up
After going through four practices of introductions, the Jayhawks changed things up Saturday and conducted the first official scrimmage under head coach Turner Gill.
Although the scrimmage was closed to the public and media and only lasted for part of Saturday’s practice, Gill appeared to be looking forward to it in a big way. A little more than two hours before Gill and the Jayhawks hit the field, the KU coach posted the following message on his Twitter page: “1ST SCRIMMAGE TODAY. LET’S GO!” Anyone with any kind of computer savvy knows that the all-caps style indicates excitement.
The Jayhawks are off today and will return to practice at 3:30 p.m. Monday.