The Washington Huskies are scheduled to play a football game next weekend, and coach Chris Petersen sounds like he might be closer to solving the 40-year-old paradox of black holes in outer space than naming a starting quarterback for the opener at Boise State.
“Are we there? We’re not there,” Petersen said Wednesday. “We might be in a few days, and we might be in a couple of months.”
Petersen’s inability to identify a winner in the preseason competition between fourth-year junior Jeff Lindquist, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and true freshman Jake Browning makes it difficult for fans to rally around a team generating less buzz this summer than Chris Christie’s presidential campaign.
But at least the Huskies aren’t alone. Defending grand poobah Ohio State has yet to decide on a starting QB. Neither has Alabama, Oregon, Georgia and Florida State. As camps are transitioning into the game-week phase of the regular season, the coaches of five of the top 10 ranked teams in America remain conflicted about who’ll operate their offenses.
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Petersen’s laid-back, we’ll-get-there-when-we-get-there-and-we-might-not-get-there-for-a-while tone is in contrast to that of Georgia’s Mark Richt, overseeing a three-man quarterback audition at a school where performing capably in spring practice is regarded as a life skill.
“I’d like to know and have peace,” Richt said recently. “I’m waiting for some peace. When I have to make a big decision and I have little time to make it, I like to pray about it, I like to think about it and then I like to have some peace that, hey, this is the right thing to do.
“I don’t have that peace right now. I’m a pretty patient guy, but the clock is ticking.”
As Richt prays for peace, new Oregon State coach Gary Andersen appears to have attained it. The Beavers will alternate freshmen Seth Collins and Marcus McMaryion at quarterback in their opener against Weber State, and will continue to alternate until either seizes the job.
“We’re gonna go into the first game and play both of them,” offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin said Saturday, “and play both of them probably in the second game, and probably the third game I’ll do the same thing. So they won’t have to worry about who will get the reps, because the other guy is gonna play.”
At UCLA, meanwhile, coach Jim Mora determined Wednesday that Josh Rosen would start for the Bruins. Ordaining the freshman didn’t surprise anybody — Rosen was regarded by many recruiting analysts as the nation’s top high-school quarterback in 2004 — but still qualified as news after Mora’s public chastising of Rosen last week.
Mora told Rosen he wasn’t worthy of starting anytime soon, then repeated his qualms about the 18-year old quarterback to reporters attending the Bruins’ practice.
Seven days later, Mora referred to a “gut feeling” about Rosen’s emotional stability.
“When you have done it as long as we have done it, at some point it just becomes apparent to you,” the former Seahawks head coach explained. “You have seen enough and you say, ‘You know what? It’s time to make that decision, and let’s go.’ And that’s what we did.”
And that’s what the powerhouse that is No. 1 Ohio State hasn’t done. Coach Urban Meyer is torn between quarterbacks Cardale Jones and JT Barrett, both of whom contributed to the Buckeyes’ national championship in 2014 — a year that found them alternating three starting quarterbacks from spring practice through January.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich faces a similar challenge in his quest to find a replacement for Heisman Trophy quarterback Marcus Mariota. The presumptive heir, Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams, had some problems achieving a math-class credit necessary for his graduation — I’ve been there, Vernon — allowing Mariota’s 2014 backup, Jeff Lockie, to assemble a credible case for starting.
Adams’ transfer from EWU to Oregon was supposed to be seamless, a giant and immediate leap from the hinterlands to college football’s gaudiest stage, but when it comes to appointing roles for quarterbacks, little is seamless — and nothing is guaranteed.
Which is another way of saying, the Huskies’ starting QB at Boise State may not be their second-half starter, and the second-half starter may not start the following week against Sacramento State.
Petersen’s options at quarterback abound: He can go game to game, playing it by ear or, more accurately, by sight. He can arrange a platoon system that doesn’t put undo pressure on a kid for making a mistake.
He can pray for peace, trusting that Georgia’s head coach hasn’t tied up all the communication channels between heaven and earth.
Or he can acknowledge the kind of gut feeling that inspired Jim Mora to put his faith in a true freshman at UCLA.
Mora is a piece of work, no? Just when you’re convinced he’s the craziest coach in the business, he makes the most sense.