Fight Fans! Irish Fans! Irish Fans That Like Fighting! Welcome to Round 1 of a scheduled 5 between Team Rees, represented by Tyler Moorehead, and Team Golson , represented by me, Steve Herring. Learn a little more about Tyler in Sunday’s Press Release. Our names link to Twitter accounts … so go follow us.
- Tommy is eligible for all games in 2012.
- It’s boxing themed so this series will feature two men in the ring (sorry Hendrix & Kiel fans, but it’s a long summer and we haven’t forgotten about you. Grab some popcorn and enjoy the carnage.)
- Two ”Burning Question” per round, ten questions total. The “teams” have been asked to keep answers in the 350-450 word range, but it won’t be too strictly enforced.
- This is NOT a roundtable. Tyler & myself won’t be going back and forth, but rather answering the questions independently. As Mike Lee told us about his opponent on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights this week - “It’s not about him. It’s about me.”
- You (readers, fans) are the judges. Post a scorecard, throw in the towel, declare a winner, complain that it’s neither of these guys, tell us we’re idiots. Whatever, but please share below.
QUESTION #1: How important is a mobile QB to Brian Kelly’s ideal offense? Where would we see the difference and/or improvement of Golson v. Rees.
Tyler Moorehead (Team Rees): I think that there is nothing more exaggerated than the supposed need for a mobile quarterback in Brian Kelly’s feared spread attack. Look, there is absolutely no question that being a running threat adds a whole extra dimension to any offense, but that tends to be an added bonus more than anything else. Brian Kelly’s offense has never been about taking off and running — it is about making smart, sharp decisions and getting the ball out very quickly. Ability to read and assess defenses swiftly and identify the open receiver is so much more important than having extreme escapability.
The best offense that Brian Kelly ever coached was led by Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike (stats). In 22 games (his junior and senior seasons — he only threw 20 passes in his first two years) he had less than stellar rushing totals: 53 yards on 87 carries, for a 0.6 yards per carry average. Now, to be fair, roughly half of those were sacks (The Bearcats allowed 31 sacks in 2008 & 15 sacks in 2009) so Pike’s true rushing average isn’t quite so low. Conversely though, that means Tony Pike only actually ran about 40 times in 22 games, on two teams that went to the BCS. If a quarterback is only going to scramble roughly two times a game, then clearly his mobility is not a priority.
It is important here to acknowledge the presence of Zach Collaros, the quarterback who took over for four full games when Tony Pike went down with an injury in 2009 (stats). Collaros had a very Andrew Hendrix-like build and showcased the ability to run the ball very effectively. The Cincinnati offense absolutely lit up the scoreboard in those four games. This is where the idea that a mobile quarterback is crucial to Brian Kelly’s spread originated. However, it is important to note that despite Collaros’ unbelievable play and obvious physical (i.e. mobility) advantages, Brian Kelly gave the quarterback job back to Pike when he was healthy again. Kelly sided with the experience and more developed ability to read defenses rather than purely physical attributes.
Now it is clear that Tommy Rees is more like Tony Pike than Zach Collaros, and Golson, while clearly different from Collaros, brings the ability to run to the table. It is absolutely fair to say that right now Tommy Rees is much better than Everett Golson at making quick reads of the defense, which is something that is developed over time and only with in-game experience. Because of this, Rees is better suited to step in and lead the offense, because quick reads and throws are the most important part of Brian Kelly’s offense. We already saw that Kelly sided with experience over athleticism once, and I would expect him to do so again this fall.
Steve Herring (Team Golson): We must start by pointing out that Tommy Rees isn’t just “not mobile”, he’s completely immobile. “Mobile” indicates above average athleticism at the quarterback position; this covers anybody from Andrew Luck to Colt McCoy to Michael Vick. His inability to move the pocket even five yards or make a small rushing gain when the field opens has been a detriment to countless drives and scoring opportunities during his time at the helm. I’m sure much will be made this week about Rees’s knowledge of the playbook trumping Golson (who allegedly has struggled to digest it), but how many of football’s most basic plays are already off the table with Rees in the huddle? Staples of the game, not just Brian Kelly’s spread, such as deep roll-outs and slow developing screen passes are out. Don’t even get us started on actually eluding a defender on occasion … or a speed option.
Stepping into the actual questions for Team Golson, I’m going to concede that having a “mobile” quarterback isn’t paramount to running the offense efficiently at a high pace, but having one that can make athletic maneuvers is. Know the difference. Kelly’s offense, like many offenses, doesn’t require an elite playmaker calling the plays, but the presence of one is always an added bonus. Quarterbacks that need to be accounted for by opposing defenses have the tendency to make offenses much more lethal. That would clearly be the case when Everett Golson is taking the snap over one Tommy Rees. Brian Kelly does prefer to include the option when attacking and depending on situations he’d like to lean on it. Tommy voids this entire portion of the game plan. Is the section of plays Tommy can’t run as big as the one Everett isn’t comfortable in yet? Only one of those two problems can be solved. Golson, who possesses a stronger arm anyways, can run option and misdirection plays that achieve their goal – getting defenders out of position.
With Everett Golson commandeering the Irish attack in 2012, the differences and improvement could be staggering. He adds entirely new dimensions to the field with his arm and his legs. Defenses, despite facing Michael Floyd, didn’t respect Tommy’s deep passing game and needn’t worry with assigning a defender to the quarterback. When Golson flips that script you’ll see coverages that are softer because of Golson’s cannon and defensive schemes that consistently include either a) fewer defenders in coverage or b) fewer pass rushers attacking. You know what happens when a linebacker or safety is assigned to the quarterback & defensive ends are slow-playing contain? The QB has all day to find the mismatch and all his weapons are one-on-one. Somebody is getting open on an easy read.
QUESTION #2: How much does the brutal schedule impact the 2012 QB decision for Brian Kelly?
Tyler Moorehead (Team Rees): I think the 2012 schedule plays a humongous role in Brian Kelly’s quarterback decision. It is never easy to give any quarterback their first game experience, no matter how talented the quarterback may be (look at Jimmy Clausen’s entire freshman season). It gets even harder when you are playing quality opponents, and even though Navy and Purdue are some of the easier games on this year’s slate, they are definitely not slouches, especially when you consider the Navy game takes place in far-from-normal circumstances by being played in Ireland. Because of the difficulty of the schedule as a whole, and due to the fact that the team will be thrown right into the fire, I think Brian Kelly considers starting any quarterback other than Tommy Rees as too big of a risk, and one that he is unwilling to take.
It is no secret that experience matters big time in college football, particularly for quarterbacks. And I think most people, if they are being honest with themselves, realize that it would be suicide to send a guy with little or no experience out at Michigan State, or versus a Michigan team led by Heisman-hopeful Denard Robinson. Need I even mention Oklahoma (senior Landry Jones), BYU (a BCS dark horse), or USC (a disgusting popular national championship pick led by Matt Barkley)? There’s a good chance that if we sent an unprepared quarterback out there for those games, not only we return home empty-handed, but those losses could get so out hand that the quarterback can’t take anything from the game period. There is such a thing as learning on the fly and taking hard knocks and getting back up, but that doesn’t happen when you throw a quarterback into almost certain failure. You can’t afford to shake up a young quarterback’s confidence for nothing.
Even if you are not a Tommy Rees supporter, you have to acknowledge that he has been through the fire before. He has played at USC, at Michigan, at Stanford (led by Andrew Luck), a good Utah squad at home, not to mention been in bowl games against Miami and Florida State. Yes, he was only 3-3 in those games, but having that game experience will pay dividends this year.
Bottom line — If you are playing the toughest schedule in the country, (Feldman, CBS) would you feel more confident facing it with a guy with a 12-4 record as a starter and 20 games under his belt in total, or a redshirt freshman who has never taken in a single snap in college? The schedule makes this decision a no-brainer for Brian Kelly.
Steve Herring (Team Golson): This question is a crutch of sorts for Rees defenders because they can claim that his experience at the Big House or the Coliseum trumps the need to develop players with superior skill sets. The problem with that defense? He’s not been getting better in what we would classify as “big games” and the 2012 schedule is packed with them. His stats in the last three “big games”? Versus USC, Stanford & Florida St. in 2011 Tommy totaled 0 Passing TDs, 4 INTs, -32 yards rushing, 1 fumble.
FIVE Turnovers, ZERO TDs in his last three “big games” (2 of which were his most recent) and this makes him the clear choice to head into more big games in 2012? Why? Do you think that an inexperienced player who brings more to the table in every facet of quarterbacking but one would produce worse numbers? We at Team Golson sure as hell don’t think so.
Yes – the 2012 schedule (packed with superpowers and their lofty preseason rankings) plays a very important role in Brian Kelly’s decision inasmuch that he needs to select the best player before Week 1. As I already dissected on this site, the 2012 schedule is pretty much status quo for a Notre Dame Head Football Coach. We assume Brian Kelly is approaching it with a desire to put his quarterback and team in the best possible situation to win every game. That would include calling on #5 in August and allowing his elite passing skills to stretch the field and, maybe more importantly, create much bigger spaces in the 2nd level for a stable of running backs and tight ends that should be a match-up nightmare for even the stiffest of this fall’s competition.
As many ND fans have noticed, the 2012 schedule is actually tailored more towards starting a young quarterback than any in recent memory. The Irish haven’t opened with two straight non-powers since 2002 (Maryland-Purdue) and even then Maryland was a preseason #18 that went 11-3. This season kicks off with Navy (in Dublin, Ireland) & Purdue. These programs, both rebuilding, combined to get slaughtered by the Irish 94-24 back in 2011. All four QBs on this roster should win these games, but a new starter would face his first rival, first travel, first experience at home, and all that other crap they tell us is important before September’s tail end against the Spartans and Wolverines. Michigan State is a team that lost its iconic quarterback and best defensive player, DT Jerel Worthy, and got run over in 2011 by an 0-2 Irish team. They could easily get surprised by a new Everett Golson-led assault and we’re 3-0 awaiting Denard’s final South Bend tour filled with Blue & Gold momentum, emerging offensive stars, and a Top 20 ranking. I don’t know if I see this happening with Tommy Rees at quarterback.
(Bell Rings) End of Round 1
Steve & Tyler are back to their corners (see: laptops) and will have two more questions to battle out tomorrow. Again, feel free to judge the fight below and throw in your own opinions on these questions and players.
|Steve Herring is the Editor-in-Chief of HerringBoneSports.com and also hosts TNNDN’s Down the Line. As the TNNDN Network President he acts as Executive Producer of four Notre Dame related shows.
Steve worked in broadcasting at Madison Square Garden Media and the Arena Football League. You can find all his articles and radio show links on this site.
Contact Steve on Twitter @HB_Sports or e-mail HerringBoneSports@gmail.com
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