The Quarterback Situation: Henry vs. Siller

Any time that you have MAC teams laughing at your misfortune your program is in a bad state. It would be very easy to blame injuries and write this season off, but I refuse to do that when we haven't even played a conference game. It is clear that this is a critical two-week period for Danny Hope's coaching tenure. He is facing the grumbles about his ability to improve the program for the first time. He now has two ugly losses to a MAC team at home on his resume when we only had two home losses to MAC teams in the previous 20 years combined (Bowling Green 2003 and Toledo 1992). The next game is also the biggest swing game on the schedule.

I call the Northwestern game that because they are potentially the weakest of the five undefeated teams we have left to face. Indiana will have a loss long before we face them, probably this weekend, so I am not counting them for this purpose. I think we can all agree that beating Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, or Michigan State would be a surprise at this point. Beating Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana should still be possible, especially if we can beat a team like Northwestern. That makes this next game arguably the biggest in Hope's tenure.

Because of that, we have a choice to make. Robert Marve is no longer an option at quarterback. I would argue that his effectiveness was unfortunately limited to poor line play against Notre Dame, then he was banged up from the Western Illinois game on. That leaves Rob Henry as the presumptive starter. He is not the only option, however. Justin Siller has three starts at quarterback in his career. Could he be a better choice? Here is the case for each:

Justin Siller

Pros

Cons

3 Career Starts

None since 2008

59 of 106 for 496 yards, 3 TD's, 2 INTS

Would be another position switch

More experience and maturity

Lots of questions

I am very tempted to go with Siller if we want to salvage this season. Even if we're trying to plan for the long term Siller could be an answer because he has another year of eligibility. He could start next year in what is shaping up to be a very crowded quarterback derby. At the very least, we need to prepare him as a backup because having Henry running the ball opens him up to more injuries. I know he is officially listed as a QB-WR-RB, but I know he was fourth string at the beginning of the season at best in terms of the quarterback situation. I am sure no one ever saw Marve getting hurt and Caleb TerBush being deemed ineligible.

Siller is probably the top backup by default because Sean Robinson is going to redshirt if at all possible and Skyler Titus is a walk-on. Justin might be the better option based on experience alone. He had an electrifying game against Michigan in 2008. I know its not much, but his performance in that game (21 of 34, 266 yards, 3 TD's, 77 yards rushing with a TD) is the best we have of any quarterback currently on the roster. It makes him a proven commodity even though it occurred two years ago.

Remember, at the time this guy was the quarterback of the future. There is a more than good chance that he would have been the starter last year and this season if not for his academic indiscretions. He has shown maturity off the field by overcoming his mistakes and coming back. That maturity could be a big positive for this team in this state.

Unfortunately, he did last play the quarterback position two years ago. Henry, even though he hasn't had a start, had all last season in practice and has played in all four games this year. It is a risk to go back to a guy that hasn't played the position in two years. As much as I like Siller's experience under center, I also remember that his other two starts (at Michigan state and Iowa) didn't go nearly as well. If he is going to be named the starter it needs to happen immediately. He showed his greatest improvement between his first quarterback expirence (vs. Minnesota) and a week later against Michigan when he had a week of practice as the #1 guy.

Finally, Siller would take away another receiver, putting us two down from our original starting three. We would lose any size we once had at the receiver position since Keith Smith is also gone. Can we make it work with a starting trio of Cortez Smith, Antavian Edison, and O.J. Ross? I don't know. With Edison and Ross having to line up in the backfield as running backs it is already limiting our passing game as it is.

Rob Henry

Pros

Cons

Has been in the position for two years

0 career starts

21 of 41 for 233 yards, 2 TD's and 1 INT

1/3 of yards came on one fluke play

Passing game has not been a threat with him

Could be a good option quarterback if we went strictly with the run

Both Henry and Siller are mobile quarterbacks, so I don't think worrying about losing that option is possible. With Henry, we're rushing for over 200 yards per game in the last three games. He is currently second on the team in rushing with 167 yards behind Dan Dierking.

Henry has struggled to move the ball through the air. Many of his completions have been checkdowns to Dierking out of the backfield or Kyle Adams for short gains. His longest completion, a 76 yard TD to Cortez Smith, was the result of a tipped ball by a defender that happened to go to Smith on the ricochet. The receivers don't seem to get involved in the game as much with Henry, and they should be open with teams stacking against the run.

Which reminds me, how is it our receivers aren't open? When I watch other games I see receivers open everywhere. Shoot, Eric page this past weekend was left uncovered over the middle for the entire damn game, but we never seem to have receivers as open as that for even one play. I know we refuse to cover the inside slant over the middle, but when I get home and watch other games on TV all I see is receivers open regularly. Ours don't do that, and they aren't helping a young quarterback like Henry because they're not open. Don't even get me started about their blocking ability. If we run another bubble screen I am going to scream because our downfield blocking by receivers is so poor.

Henry needs to prove he can move this team through the air. He can do it fine on the ground, wither with himself or as an options with his backs. The return of Al-Terek McBruse will help on the ground too, but the passing game is currently not a threat at all with him. It might be with Siller.

Poll:

So I now leave it to you readers. If we're going to save this season and squeeze out four wins, who should start?

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