For the last couple of years, Kansas University football coaches — old staff and new alike — have raved about quarterback Jordan Webb’s strong arm.
Three years into his career as a college quarterback, the red-shirt sophomore’s feet are starting to catch up to his cannon.
“Where he really improved is on the movement passes,” said KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long, evaluating Webb’s progress from 2010 to 2011. “He became a lot more accurate, and he’s starting to get his feet in position to make more accurate throws.”
Better than that, Webb is starting to get his feet in the proper position even before he’s comfortable doing so. At least that’s the way Webb’s high school coach, Brent Eckley, of Union (Mo.) High, saw it this winter when Webb returned home over the holiday break and worked out with the Wildcats.
“It looked to me like, athletically, his feet were much better, much quicker,” Eckley said. “That’s what really stood out to me. His feet were in the right spot underneath him, and he was ready to throw at all times. That’s gonna pay off for him in the Big 12.”
So, too, will his experience. Although KU’s starting QB job has not been handed out yet, head coach Turner Gill said after spring drills that Webb entered the summer with a slight lead in the race. Reports from coaches and teammates about Webb’s dedication, leadership and work ethic throughout the last couple of months have done nothing but help his bid to start.
“He’s still young in some areas,” Long said. “But I thought he really improved in the mental elements of the game. Physically, he’s got a strong arm. He can run. Those weren’t the issue. The whole thing about quarterback that I teach is the mental part, and I thought he really improved from the fall to the spring.”
Never was that more evident than at Memorial Stadium in late April, when Webb looked like a different man altogether during KU’s annual spring game.
“One area we really saw growth was that he not only moved the first unit, he moved the second unit, too,” Long said of Webb’s 8-of-14, 108-yard performance in the spring game, which included a touchdown on the first drive. “Whenever you see a quarterback moving the first and the second unit, that means guys are starting to gravitate toward him, starting to believe in him, and those are good signs. Good quarterbacks make players around them better, and that’s something he started to do this spring.”
Some of that progress comes from Webb’s maturity. He admitted this spring that he was overwhelmed last season, when he passed for 1,195 yards, seven TDs and eight interceptions in seven starts and nine appearances.
“I know it was a grind for him,” Eckley said.
Webb doesn’t appear to be swimming upstream any more.
“Honestly, it feels totally different this year,” Webb said this spring. “Everything’s running so much more smooth this year. I know what the coaches want out of me, I know how to play to my strengths better, and I think I’m doing that a lot more.”
The KU offense was woefully unproductive throughout most of the 2010 season, something players and coaches attributed to everything from lack of chemistry and inexperience to a new coaching staff and lack of talent.
In the forum of public opinion, a lot of the blame fell on Webb. This is nothing new. Quarterbacks typically received most of the praise during the high times and the bulk of the blame during the low times.
Though he might not always enjoy the lows, Eckley said Webb is not the kind of quarterback who lets them get under his skin.
“He’s aware that that stuff goes on,” said Eckley of the negativity regarding Webb’s ability and performance. “I think he uses it as motivation to prove people wrong, but he tries to do that without going out of his way to do it. He has a lot of confidence in his ability, and that’s something he had before he came to us. He believed he was going to be a Div. I quarterback when he was a high school freshman.”
As the summer starts to slip away and newcomers Brock Berglund and Michael Cummings — along with whatever future QBs KU signs — line up to go after what Webb believes he will earn, Eckley said he’d take Webb’s talent, experience and drive against all comers.
“I whole-heartedly believe that he’s that type of a player,” said Eckley, asked if Webb had the skills to become a four-year starter at KU. “Every day he’s gaining the advantage of taking snaps and getting work with his teammates — every day, all year round. I think for a guy to come in and beat him out during the rest of his career, that guy’s gonna have to be phenomenal.”