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Why Webb? Why not?
Kansas University football coach Turner Gill announced Wednesday that red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb would start at quarterback during Saturday’s game against No. 15 Georgia Tech.
This, less than three weeks after announcing near the end of preseason practice that sophomore Kale Pick was the starting QB for the season opener.
Interesting, to be sure. But not completely out of nowhere. The obvious question here is, “Why Webb?”
Did he show enough in limited time last Saturday to make Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long believe he is — all of a sudden — the right guy for this offense? Did he do enough in the practices that followed Saturday’s debacle to warrant getting a real chance to be this team’s QB?
In a word, yes. But the question still remains, “Why Webb?”
Although I backed the selection of Kale Pick as the starter three weeks ago (and I stand by that today), I’m not overly concerned with Gill making the move to Webb. At least not in the way it affects the quarterback position specifically.
How it impacts the team as a whole, what message it sends to KU supporters across the country, and, most importantly, what message it sends to Pick and any future QBs wanting to play for Gill, is a whole different deal. But putting Webb under center is not a bad move.
Gill said at Tuesday’s news conference that the strength of this team was its wide receivers. Not the experienced offensive line, not the linebackers, not the deep-but-unproven batch of running backs and not the secondary. KU’s receivers — Daymond Patterson, Bradley McDougald, Johnathan Wilson, D.J. Beshears, Chris Omigie, Christian Matthews and Erick McGriff, among others — are the most talented group on this team and, Saturday, in a 6-3 loss to North Dakota State, the only time they were able to show that was when they were given the ball on running plays. That won’t cut it.
So the change became necessary.
I’m not saying Pick could not have made this group of receivers a set of stars. Heck, I picked him as my offensive player of the year in a preseason deal we did on our Conference Chatter blog, and, with the way things are going, he still could be the guy.
But it’s been well-documented that Webb has the better arm of the two KU QBs and it’s also quite clear that the offensive line is better suited to pass blocking than run blocking. So instead of trying to force the square peg into the round hole, it’s time for Gill to find the pieces that fit and take the field with those. If he doesn’t, this season will be one of the worst in school history. He can worry about the shapes he wants to play with in the coming years.
That means more throwing. That means Webb. And that could mean good news for the Jayhawks, who have to show better against Georgia Tech on offense, even if they don’t win the game.
I’ve talked to some guys who have said that the coaching staff has wanted Webb to be the guy all along but that Pick did not do enough wrong to justify taking the job away from him. The interception in the end zone last Saturday along with the eye-popping “3” on the scoreboard, appeared to be enough to make the change.
When Gill and company named Pick the starter in August, they did so because they liked his intangibles and because he took care of the ball. Shaken confidence (whether it was his fault or not) hurt Pick’s intangibles and the costly interception hurt Pick’s reputation as a safe quarterback.
Right now, it’s Webb who has the confidence and, at least until Saturday, Webb who has taken better care of the ball.
Gill said both quarterbacks could play again Saturday. And what that tells me is that this thing’s far from settled.
My advice to the fans out there is to expect this thing to last the entire non-conference portion of the schedule. After all, next week at Southern Miss is KU’s first road game and neither of these guys has truly played in one of those either.