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The QB Conundrum: Approach with Caution

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The decision to switch QBs should not be taken lightly

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been riding with Kellen Mond all season long. His performances against South Carolina and Clemson made me overlook the otherwise average play we’ve been getting from him. And honestly, average has been good enough to get the wins we needed to get. For most of the season, average has been good enough (and not bad enough) to let the offense do what it needed to do, which was run the ball, control clock and walk out with a win.

This past week Kellen was below average, and it cost us the win. The bad pitch on the option play and the bad throw on the INT forced all of us to recognize his limitations as a passer and a decision maker. It’s not all Kellen’s fault...Jimbo did nothing to help him out. There should have been no reason that Kellen was still throwing late in the game with A&M averaging 8 yards a carry...but let’s put that aside for now and just talk QBs.

What’s Next?

So the obvious solution here is to give Nick Starkel some time and see what he can do. Up until this weekend, my big concern was “well what if he’s worse than Kellen is”...which kind of went away given how poorly Kellen played this weekend. But for all of you Starkel-ites, I’ve got one question:

What if he struggles to move the ball too? What then?

I know Starkel flashed last year, most recently against Wake Forest, going 42/63 for 499 yards passing with 4 TDs and 1 INT. But let’s take a deeper dive into that:

  1. He was throwing to Christian Kirk, Ausbon, and Ratley, all of whom are currently gone (absolutely noted that Christian Kirk’s production took off when Starkel came in and played last season...but there ain’t no Christian Kirk on this roster right now)
  2. This OL is not good at pass blocking.
  3. The run game, which is our bread and butter right now, was 29 caries for 134 yards, against a team that was surprisingly decent against the run (31st in S&P)...but those stats were the product of two big runs...one by Trayveon Williams and one by Keith Ford for a combined 77 yards. Besides that we were 27 carries for 57 yards.

It was good for us that Nick could sling the ball because we absolutely needed to, but can you imagine for one second A&M Jimbo wanting to throw the ball 63 times? And for comparison, Auburn was 13th in S&P against the run, and we committed to beating them on the ground (except when it counted) with 47 carries.

We’re not a pass happy team, we’re a run heavy team. Can Nick be the guy who makes the right checks at the LOS to make the right run call? Can he be enough of a run threat to make the offense go (despite the fact that we don’t seem to do a great job of calling QB run plays) I am confident that he can sling the ball, but can he do so on a team that is devoid of game-breaking talent at the WR spot? Can he undoubtedly be the QB Jimbo needs him to be to lead this team?

Not saying he can’t, just wondering out loud.

The Original Question

So back to the original question: What happens if Starkel cant move the ball at a convincing enough pace to make him undoubtedly the starter moving forward?

Here’s the conundrum. The D1 QB position is a revolving door of talent. Players transfer in and out all the time (for all we know Nick might have already given notice of his intent to transfer). But clouding the situation up by playing Nick, Nick struggling or not playing well enough to take the starting gig, and then going back to Kellen could lead to both QBs leaving. And before you say that could never happen, come on man, remember back to 2015.

Jimbo has to manage this the right way...he’s gotta think about the next three games as well as next year, because right now 2019 is looking just as precarious as the final three games of this year.

Point being is that it’s not as simple as just saying “HEY LET’S PLAY STARKEL AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS”.

Overall

I’m at a complete loss as to how we move forward. Every time I convince myself one way, I think of arguments the other way. So sure Nick had a great game against Wake, but his game against LSU last year was about on par QBR wise with what Kellen showed against Mississippi State. And yeah Kellen’s QBR ratings against Clemson, Alabama, and South Carolina were better than anything we saw from Nick last year against solid opponents...but man this weekend was god awful.

Navigating this decision is not an easy one and has huge ramifications for the program moving forward. I guess this is why we pay Jimbo the big bucks.

BTHO ole miss