Now that I have gone through the entire schedule in detail on all 12 opponents, it is time to get to know what we're going to throw at them. For the first time in a very long time it seems like we have some definitely depth at several positions. Much of it is not proven, but the silver lining of having to play so many players due to injury in 2010 is that a ton of guys now have experience.
At no position is that more true than quarterback, where in two of the past three seasons injuries have forced us to play four guys. In 2008 we played Curtis Painter, Joey Elliott, Justin Siller, and even walk-on Chris Bennett for a handful of plays. Last year we saw four different QBs start a game if you count Siller. As we go through day five in camp the word is that the passing game is lagging behind the running game despite the experience returning. It is all about reps though, and many of these quarterbacks have never been able to get consistent reps with the current group of receivers due to injury.
Coach Hope has already said that as many as three quarterbacks will play. Yesterday he even stated that the best one throwing the ball might be Caleb TerBush. Personally, I don't think a quarterback rotation is a good idea no matter how good each player is. You need that consistency at the position to make a passing game work, and 9 out of 10 times a dual system is a recipe for failure. What baffles me even more is that one of our quarterbacks has already struggled in a shared system.
That said, here is my breakdown of the position as we head into the season:
Starter: Rob Henry - So. (RS)
Career starts: 7
Career stats: 86-162 for 996 yards, 8 TD's, 7 INTs. 547 yards and 4 TD's rushing
I think Rob Henry needs to be named THE guy right now. His hand is finally healed and he showed a lot of improvement from the beginning to the end of last year. His best game was the Indiana game where he threw for three touchdowns, but he still forced a crippling interception in overtime to pretty much seal our fate. Over a quarter of his passing yards came in that game as well.
The other big factor is that he was already voted a team captain. He was chosen as a leader by his peers, and that is rare for a guy in just his second year on the field. Henry gives us the most versatility at the position with his ability to create plays with his feet. He just needs time that I fear he is not getting in the passing game because we insist on sharing duties at the position. You can't discount his performance at Northwestern, where the passing game was limited but he still created a win with his legs. Ultimately, that was the most important result. If we have to run the ball that is fine as long as it is successful. Whatever it takes to have more points at the end of the game is fine with me.
Of course, you still need the passing game to be a threat, and that is the most critical feature when Henry is in the game and taking snaps. The Wildcat bullcrap only works so much. What I fear is a system where Henry enters on running downs and Marve enters on throwing downs. We might as well tell opposing defense our intentions if that happens. As long as we insist on splitting quarterbacks Henry has to be at least a threat to throw, and throw successfully.
Top Backup: Robert Marve - Sr.
Career starts: 15
Career stats: 183-312 for 1,805 yards, 12 TDs, 17 INTs. 172 yards and 3 TD's rushing
In a perfect world Marve is entering his second full year as the starter. I really like the kid and I feel like he has had nothing but bad luck his entire career. Part of it was his fault at Miami, but he has suffered a car accident, minor legal troubles, a quarterback rotation in Miami, a tumultuous transfer saga, and two ACL tears in the same knee all since beginning his college career. The kid has matured since coming to West Lafayette and I would love to see him have success this season.
Unfortunately, the knee is the question. He has already had to be held out of practice once because of swelling, and that was in the non-torn ACL knee. The swelling stems from the tendon hey took from that knee to repair the other. The kid has been given a ton of talent but has completed exactly one college football game while healthy since 2009. He was banged up in the first two home games before the ACL went against Toledo.
Undoubtedly Marve is the better passer than Henry, but he still struggled against Ball State and Western Illinois last year. The knee seems to be limiting him so far in his battle to regain his starting position. Only twice in 15 starts has he thrown for more than 200 yards in a game, with 220 at Notre Dame last year as his career high. Based on everything that has come out of camp so far I can't see him passing Henry, but he has to be ready. With Henry as a running QB injury can always rear its ugly head.
3rd String: Caleb TerBush - Jr. (RS)
Career starts: 0
Career stats: 4-10 for 22 yards
TerBush is the poster child for Danny Hope talking about a good practice. He might be the greatest practice QB in the history of college football, but we have yet to see it on the field. He missed last season due to academics and has played in a grand total of one game. He saw mop-up action in the 37-0 blowout at Wisconsin in 2009. Still, he has the most experience in the system by being around for three full years.
Allegedly he is the best passer so far and might be edging up on Marve for the #2 job. If he is truly the best passer I would be tempted to make Henry a Superback type and name TerBush the starter right now. It seems like all three of these guys have strengths that I wish we could combine into one QB.
Redshirting: Sean Robinson - So.
Career starts: 1
Career stats: 44-91 for 306 yards, 2 TDs, 6 INTs, 50 yards rushing
Robinson probably redshirts last year if TerBush doesn't get suspended academically or Marve stays healthy. Instead he was forced to play and even start a game when he probably needed the redshirt year to get up to speed. Now he is in line for said redshirt and stands a good chance of battling for the starting position in 2012 and beyond. In high school he was a solid dual threat quarterback, but we didn't see a lot of his running ability last year.
Still, he was respectable for a true freshman making his lone start against Big Ten champ Wisconsin last year. He had 141 yards passing with a TD and 31 yards rushing against one of the better defenses in the conference. Those aren't great numbers, but not bad for a guy that was playing out of sheer necessity. He still has a lot to learn, but has time to learn it.
Parker is a walk-on redshirt freshman from the same high school as T.J. Barbarette. Dawson is a senior that has been a walk-on for just one season. These two will only play in the biggest of blowouts or if there is an absolute disaster in front of them.
Wild Cards: Justin Siller, Delapo McCarthy, Justin Sinz
I call these guys wild cards because they were either quarterbacks in high school, have run plays at the position before, or both. Siller, as we know, has four starts at QB but wasn't healthy at all last year. It's been three years since he saw significant time at the position, but I can see him being the emergency guy even ahead of Robinson if they wish to keep his redshirt.
McCarthy was a late addition to the roster who ran quarterback during the spring game and was the #15 dual-threat QB in his high school class before going to prep school for a year. He's got good size at 6'5" and is currently listed as a receiver, but always keep him in mind for a trick play if he sees the field.
Sinz was a former all-state quarterback in Wisconsin who is now a converted tight end. If he sees the field a trick pass could be an option as well.
It is terribly frustrating to be known as the Cradle of Quarterbacks when we don't have a definite starter at the position. it is even more frustrating when the best in-state QB prospect in years goes to freakin' IU. It is a tough position to judge because honestly there are things I like about all four of the top guys. I like Henry's running ability and leadership. I like Marve's toughness and work ethic as well as his arm. I like TerBush's arm. I even like Robinson's calm demeanor at being asked to play before he was ready.
Each player has huge question marks too. Can Henry throw effectively? Can Marve stay healthy? Can TerBush run the offense in a game as well as he does in practice? Is Robinson ready? Right now I feel like Henry is our best option, but I am far from totally sold on it.