Winding down discussions I’ve got 3 positions left to discuss (QB, OL, ST) and so I figured I’d go with the easier discussion of the three and look at our QB situation today. Obviously the team has a lot of guys here and three with carrying over experience from last year. The role of starter is sewn up however as we learned last year and from other systems a spread-style offense usually needs to rely upon multiple QBs due to the higher risk of injury put on these guys.
Jordan Johnson (Jr) 6-1 202: JJ started the season with a nagging ankle injury from fall camp that limited his ability overall and he subsequently got more and more banged up as the 1st half of the season went on to the point where he had to sit a game against UNC. Upon his return though Griz fans began to see how JJ can go from a game manager to an on-field leader. Especially during the Weber, MSU, UCA, UNI run and in the 2nd half of the SHSU game. Griz fans this year will expect JJ to be “that guy” we saw in the 2nd half of the season for the whole year. JJ’s leadership with the team (as I’m told) has been cemented, he’s a tough guy, and this year I’m looking for him to take over a more vocal role as well that we’ve seen from other QBs that have been excellent leaders of late such as Andrew Selle and Cole Bergquist. This year what I’m looking to see more from JJ is making some better decisions, at times last year he would force a throw when a running option for a 1st down was there, he’s also shown some issues at times recognizing cover-2 schemes when the safeties are helping the CBs with coverage along the sidelines. JJ is a very good QB, it’s now time for him to become a great one, and I think 2012 is where we will see that.
Gerald Kemp (Sr) 6-2 215: It’s not entirely known yet where we’ll see Kemp the most, there’s suggestion of slot WR, wildcat QB, running back, safety, or just a backup QB. This last season Kemp would just start to get things going and then have an injury spring up to sideline him, a shoulder injury first and then turf-toe. Kemp is the best experienced backup to JJ and I would still argue a better overall athlete (hence his ability to play in many positions). Kemp is fast, strong, and knows how to play the offense from many positions. I would argue that taking him out of the QB rotation and just pegging him in as a WR would be a mistake. Fans forget sometimes, but remember Kemp had a stellar day against UNC, proving he’s a viable QB for this system. As a wildcat QB Kemp is option #1, and I hope to see more of him in that role this year similar to what SHSU did with their QB/WR Sincere, he’s grown from wanting to keep the ball all the time to recognizing the zone-read better. When throwing G needs to just find a consistent groove, he’d go hot and then cold, the UNC game suggests in a game-time situation he can turn it up, but in practices he’d have rough stretches – I’d like to see those mostly worked out.
Nate Montana (Sr) 6-4 215: Remember back when Dennis Dixon was the QB at Oregon and the backup (was it Costa?) was good with a zone-read but lacked the speed and athleticism of Dixon? I think of Nate being in a similar position, he’s very good with a zone read but when he tucks and keeps the ball he’s usually getting caught after a 3-4 yard gain. When throwing Nate is just about as good a JJ when he’s on point, he does take more risks than other QBs but as we saw last year he throws deeper passes really well, he also has the height to be a lot more comfortable in the pocket and not need to be on the run as much when the line gets jammed up with a blitz. I’d notice at times when Nate came in the overall “speed” of the offense would drop, hopefully this year with continued reps in the system he’s going to get more comfortable with the up-tempo and not miss a beat when called upon to play at QB
Shay Smithwick-Hann (So) 6-4 222: Amidst the expectations that he’d move to TE, all Shay did last year was rock the passing game. From my observational standpoint he threw the best medium/deep passes of all the QBs consistently and while some people short-changed his overall athletic ability he actually has some decent wheels to run around and make plays outside of the pocket. Where Shay needs to improve is continually working on the right recognitions with the zone and becoming more “fluid” with it, at times he’d be a little too hesitant and that would disrupt the timing.
Trent McKinney (Fr) 6-0 198: Trent was a guy that looked like your typical freshman QB in a complicated system as fall camp got under way, however he showed very quick adaptation to the offense and as the weeks went by he showed a lot of improvement. Compared to the other QBs at the time Trent looked pretty small, hopefully this off-season he’s added some muscle. Trent has the makings of a great QB for this system, what I’m really looking for out of him this spring is to see him work the whole field and make a lot more throws. In fall camp Trent defaulted to the quick/short throws, check-downs, and WR screens. Its not that he didn’t throw down-field at all, but he really didn’t do it a ton, this spring I’d like to see more of that (I’ll also say I’m not sure if he didn’t throw down field by choice or if it was by design and the coaches wanted him to play it safe).
New to the team this fall:
Brady Gustafson 6-7 210: We’ll see how Brady fits in the system, he’s got tremendous height but will he have the quickness/speed to fit well in this system? We’d seen other QBs like Brock Osweiler at ASU make it work, time will tell with Brady.
QB seems pretty straight-forward with depth, Johnson, Kemp OR Montana. After that we’ll have to see how McKinney and SSH duke it out, that could be the more entertaining battle for a future role on the team.