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Breakdown: Is Jordan Webb improving?
Throughout Kansas' offensive struggles this year, we've constantly been told by coach Turner Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long that freshman quarterback Jordan Webb is improving each week.
Is that improvement visible from an outside coach's perspective?
That's what we'll look at in this week's "Breakdown" segment. For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."
This week, I put together a video of Webb's first-half passes against Kansas State (when the game was relatively close) and sent them to Coach, asking for his observations.
Here are some of Coach's notes about Webb:
• "He made a couple good throws when he’s on the run. Obviously, he’s not a great in-the-pocket, dropback passer. He’s going to be more a guy you run sprint-outs with and you’re going to roll out play-action stuff. He’s not a great straight dropback passer."
• "He’s OK on the run, but not very good when he has pressure in his face on the run. That might be due to the fact that he’s not a very big guy."
This was most evident on two separate plays on the KSU film (:45, 1:10), when Webb rolled out to his right but had similar passes batted down by KSU's defensive end.
"You’d think he would have done something a little better with his feet, being he’s not a tall quarterback, to get around the edge better to have a better angle to throw the ball," Coach says.
• "He threw a lot of checkdowns. They run a lot of short routes to the outside. I know you and I had talked about it before that it didn’t seem like they threw down the field very much, but I did notice when they did have down-the-field pass plays, he threw a lot of checkdowns. That could have to do with him not being very comfortable throwing the ball downfield or maybe the fact that his receivers weren’t getting open very well."
• "He threw into double-coverage a couple times against K-State. Now, sometimes, you run a pass play, and it’s going to be to your fastest receiver, and even though he’s double-covered, you think he might just go ahead and run past both guys and score a touchdown. But the times that he threw into double-coverage, they were pretty well blanketing his receiver."
• He’s not very accurate with his downfield throws. I think consistency is a big issue with him. Sometimes he’ll come out and look really good, and other times, he’ll make a play that doesn’t look like he should be a Big 12 quarterback."
• "One thing that I can tie in with this is that the wide receivers didn’t make some plays down the field where they could have gone up and caught a ball that he put on the money. ... I know there were a couple times where he threw the ball down the field and the ball was good enough to catch."
The best example of this was at the 1:45 mark of the video, when Webb made an accurate pass to Christian Matthews, who couldn't hold on to the reception.
"The throw was to the inside, the defense was to the outside, and it should have been a catch," Coach says. "Something like that can lead to lack of confidence all the way around in your passing game. If I let this pass go, is my receiver going to catch it? Is my receiver going to be running the right route here? From the receiver’s standpoint, if I run this deep route, am I going to get the ball? Is it going to be a good throw if the quarterback actually is targeting me?"
Webb's video from the Spring game is below.
So, according to Coach, has Webb progressed in the last few months?
"I do think a little bit that his fundamentals have improved since the spring," Coach says. "I think his footwork has been better, and you think that, in time, that would lead to better accuracy. He’s getting himself in a better position to throw the ball. He’s stepping toward his targets, and it seems like he has a pretty strong arm.
"But in the spring, you saw some of the same things you see in the K-State game. He throws into coverage a couple times. His (in)accuracy on some of his throws ... then again, the inconsistency where he really made some nice plays as well.
"I remember the long throw (in the Spring game) where he was rolling out to his right and he made the long throw for a touchdown to his tight end (1:10 mark). That’s a spectacular play right there."
So has Coach seen the type of improvement in Webb to indicate he could be a top Big 12 quarterback someday?
"It’s hard to say, but he’s not going to be the type of player like Todd Reesing," Coach says. "I know Todd Reesing had some great talent around him, but Todd Reesing also could make a team go even if they didn’t have some of the skill guys on the outside.
"For Webb to be a really good player in the Big 12, he’s going to have to have a lot of skill players around him. He’s not going to be able to carry the team like a lot of other spectacular quarterbacks do.
"(Reesing) had a cannon, had better feet and also had a lot better accuracy."
Still, Coach says there are ways to play to Webb's strengths.
Here's how he would do it.
"Definitely not going to have a lot of dropback passes in the gameplan," Coach says. "I’m going to be trying to move the pocket to get him outside of the pocket to have better line of sight for his throws.
"And also I’m going to try to limit a lot of the downfield throws, and when we do have some downfield throws, they are going to be some of the ones that are more of the high-percentage downfield throws. And they’re going to be at a good time when I know what the defense is going to show me, so I’m going to guarantee a little bit better success for my quarterback."