Tom Layberger

Spring Training

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New coach, new QB

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Coaching changes are always interesting as the fan base is curious as to what schemes will remain the same, tweaked or scrapped altogether. In many cases an offense can have an entirely new look if the new sideline boss is also having to break in a new starting quarterback. That is the case with handful of programs this spring. Here is a look at a some of them.

Coach: Rich Rodriguez
QB: Matt Scott

After four years – and more than 10,000 yards -- of Nick Foles slinging it from the pocket, Wildcats fans will get an entirely different look in 2012. Rodriguez has brought his spread option offense to the desert and Scott will be the one running the show. Scott, who operated in similar schemes during high school, is no stranger in Tucson. He will be entering his season and provided a glimpse of things to come when he filled in for the injured Foles during the 2010 season. In two starts he threw for 552 yards and ran for another 136.

Arizona State
Coach: Todd Graham
QB: Michael Bercovici/Taylor Kelly

Bercovici, who was the primary backup to Brock Osweiler last season, and Kelly will continue to compete for the starter’s job in August. Both are sophomores. Graham does not intend to announce a decision by the conclusion of the spring, which wraps up April 21.  Osweiler opted for the NFL draft and Graham opted to do away with ASU’s one-back, spread offense. Graham’s system will include some read-option packages, which means his quarterbacks must be able to use their feet. Graham also likes his QBs to be able to chuck it down field. (Chase Clement at Rice, albeit for only one season, and G.J. Kinne at Tulsa were ideal quarterbacks under Graham.)  Bercovici’s strength is his arm while Kelly ran some spread-option in high school and is the most comfortable of ASU’s trio of quarterbacks, which also includes 6-foot-5, 240-pound redshirt freshman Michael Eubank. Graham recruited Eubank during his brief time in the Steel City.

Coach: Norm Chow
QB: David Graves

Chow, a Honolulu native, has come home at age 65. He spent the last four decades developing quarterbacks and devising offensive schemes at the college and NFL levels. Now, he needs to find a quarterback to fit his pro-set system after scrapping the run-and-shoot that former Warriors coach June Jones first made popular at Aloha Stadium. Graves is the only QB on the depth chart with any experience of note as he made three starts while filling in for the injured Bryant Moniz at the end of the last season. He was expected to be pushed by fellow junior Cayman Shutter, but Graves has a clear path to the top of the depth chart at least for time being following Shutters’ arrest (DUI) and subsequent suspension from the program.

Coach: Tony Levine
QB: David Piland

Entering his fifth season with the Cougars, Levine knows Houston well. That cannot be said of many of his players. When he looked around the practice field this spring he saw of lot of unfamiliar faces on offense. Gone are Case Keenum, Patrick Edwards and a slew of other glamour-position players that dotted the depth chart the last 2-3 years and set numerous records. Make no mistake, Levine and new OC Mike Nesbitt desire to maintain a revved-up offense. It will take some time as several young players must round into form. At least Piland had some experience in former coach Kevin Sumlin’s spread offense. Filling in for an injured Keenum, Piland threw for 2,641 yards and 24 touchdowns the final eight games of 2010. Knowing he would be the starter his final two years on campus, Piland redshirted last season with Keenum back healthy. Few remain from the cast Piland directed two years ago, so it was a get-to-know-you spring. At least he and the popular Levine are on the same page and are familiar with each other, which is something that should pay off to some degree when the Cougars ramp it up again in August.

Coach: Charlie Weis
QB: Dayne Crist

With more than 300 career pass attempts Crist is not an unproven or untested QB like others on this list. Rather, he and Weis are reunited as the new two-headed face of Kansas football. Crist was recruited by Weis to run his pro-style offense at Notre Dame and the pair come together to do the same in Lawrence. Under Weis, Crist has absorbed more than his share of Tom Brady video. What has helped make Brady a future-Hall-of-Famer is his pocket presence, his ability to slow things down while the walls around him are about to collapse. That is one of the key elements Crist has been working on this spring while adjusting to new teammates and a new surroundings. Fleet quarterbacks need not apply in Weis’ system – a system that should drastically alter an offense that ranked 106th nationally last season.

Southern Miss
Coach: Ellis Johnson
QB: Chris Campbell

Campbell’s position in the header is most tentative. The junior emerged from the spring game with a paper-thin edge over sophomore Ricky Lloyd in the competition to replace four-year starter Austin Davis. Given neither has as much as attempted a pass for the Golden Eagles might lead one to believe the competition could last well into the 2012 season. If nothing else, one or the other could be used as a change-of-pace because Lloyd can make things happen with his feet. Either way, there will be a new face under center operating in a two-back set. Former coach Larry Fedora ran one-back schemes.    

Texas A&M
Coach: Kevin Sumlin
QB: Jameill Showers

The new Aggies’ coach had it made with NCAA record-breaker Case Keenum at Houston. Not so in College Station. At least not yet. As this spring winds down toward the April 28 Maroon & White game, one of the newest members of the SEC does not have a clear-cut starting QB and may not until fall. Sumlin does have numbers to work with as four are vying to lead the huddle. Jameill Showers could very well be the man under center for the Aug. 30 opener against Louisiana Tech. A dual-threat, Showers has the lone playing experience among the quartet. Still, it all comes down to adjusting to Sumlin’s high-octane spread packages. If it’s not Showers, then perhaps Johnny Manziel, who had a phenomenal high school career in the Lone State and can also get it done with his feet as well as arm.   

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