With each spring practice, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill and his staff slowly have revealed what the offense will look like in 2010. Monday, on the fifth day of drills, the coaches shared a little more.
“We’re going to be half and half, half under center, half in the (shotgun),” offensive coordinator Chuck Long said. “We want to be able to go under center for some of our run game and play-action game.”
The top two candidates to win the starting quarterback job have next to no experience under center, but Long doesn’t seem worried.
“It’s really not that difficult,” he said. “Like anything, if you work at it and practice it, you’ll get it down. That’s what we’re doing.”
Through one week, red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb and red-shirt sophomore Kale Pick have emerged as the front-runners to replace Todd Reesing at QB. To some degree, freshman Christian Matthews also remains in the mix, but Gill announced Monday that Matthews would split time between quarterback and wide receiver.
So, for now, that leaves Webb and Pick, two players who worked in spread offenses in high school and came to Kansas largely because the old staff ran a similar system.
“I didn’t take a snap under center in high school,” Webb said. “We ran all spread, and I definitely wanted to stay in that. But with this new offense, I’m really happy.”
Surprisingly, Webb said the transition under center has not bothered him. While at Union (Mo.) High, Webb recorded astonishing numbers. As a junior, he threw for 3,832 yards and 46 touchdowns. A year later, he nearly matched those totals — 3,100 yards and 31 TDs — and added 1,024 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground.
Though he realized those wild numbers likely won’t be available in KU’s new offense, Webb said he liked the style.
“Actually it hasn’t been as hard as I thought,” he said. “I like going under center so far, going through reads and taking longer drops. In the gun you take a three-step (drop) or you catch and throw. But under center you gotta be able to take a five-step (drop) and do play-action.”
The last time Pick was under center he was a junior at Dodge City High, where he was an all-state selection and threw for 1,779 yards and 19 touchdowns. Pick suffered a hand injury during the first game of his senior season and didn’t get back onto the field until he came to KU.
“I’ve been in the old system for two years so I haven’t taken a snap under center for a while,” he said. “But it’s coming around. Coach Long says I’m improving my under-center footwork so that’s good.”
The biggest challenge for Pick is not so much juggling offensive styles as it is shedding the label that’s been placed on him.
“In high school I was a throwing quarterback,” he said. “I was never a running quarterback. But I got a few good runs here, and now everyone thinks I’m a running quarterback. Now I just have to show I can throw it, too.”