We here at KSR Radio have asked our resident football guru Duncan Cavanah to help our bleak football coverage by giving an eight part football preview. He starts today, with the quarterbacks.
Part one in an eight part position by position preview of the 2006 Kentucky Wildcats.
On September 3rd, a young Kentucky quarterback will take the Papa John's Stadium field against the heavily favored Louisville Cardinals and try to end a three game losing streak to Kentucky's cross state rival. What is certain is that this quarterback will carry the weight of turning that ever elusive Kentucky football corner and saving the job of his embattled coach. What is unknown as of the date of this writing is just which quarterback will shoulder that burden.
Andre Woodson would be the safe choice. Woodson started every game last season and has far and away the most experience of the candidates. There is no question that the 6'5" Woodson has arm strength and passing accuracy to spare. What Woodson seemed to lack last year was that certain intangible spark great quarterbacks seem to possess. Following a promising opener against Louisville in which he passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns, Woodson threw for only four more scores the rest of the season. It appeared that a great amount of his difficulty involved indecisiveness, which led to unnecessarily taking sacks and losing fumbles. Particularly painful to Cat fans was the crucial fourth quarter fumble at the Louisville one yard line. Despite these struggles, Woodson did complete a respectable 57.7% of his passes for 1644 yards.
If the Kentucky staff elects to not go with Woodson, Curtis Pulley will get the nod. Pulley appears to be the polar opposite of Woodson in nearly every way. Though he clearly does not possess Woodson's passing ability at this stage of his career, he does have exceptional athleticism. This athleticism exhibited itself in Pulley's true freshman campaign in a variety of areas. Pulley had three rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position, blocked multiple kicks on special teams, and spent time at wide receiver. The question for the coaching staff is whether Pulley's arm can keep defenses honest. The question for Kentucky fans is whether the staff possesses the creativity to implement a system that will allow Pulley to use his tools to lead the offense to points.
The wild cards in this equation are true freshmen Will Fidler and Mike Hartline. Both are well regarded prototypical pocket passers with big frames and solid athletic ability. However, history shows that playing quarterback as a true freshman in major college football is rarely a successful proposition, and it is doubtful that either will surpass the two experienced quarterbacks on the roster.
Breakdown of the candidates:
: 6'5" 232 pound Junior, Radcliff, Kentucky
Strengths: Most experienced candidate, starting every game of 2005. Only QB on the Kentucky roster with a college touchdown pass. Good arm strength and outstanding accuracy. Had good passing games against both Louisville and Auburn last season.
Weaknesses: Took far too many sacks lacks year and lost multiple fumbles. Confidence appeared shaken as the season wore on in 2005.
: 6'4" 200 pound Sophomore, Hopkinsville, Kentucky
Strengths: Phenomenal athleticism that resulted in 6000 yards passing and three thousand yards rushing in his career at Hopkinsville High School. Athleticism further demonstrated by being named Mr. Football in 2005 and runner up for Mr. Basketball the same season. Rushed for 149 yards and three scores in limited work at quarterback and completed 62% of his passes.
Weaknesses: Passing ability still a question mark. Though Pulley completed a high percentage of his passes in 2005, most were short tosses to backs or the tight end. Also, during this limited work, Pulley threw no touchdown passes and three interceptions.
: 6'4" 205 pound Freshman, Henderson, Kentucky
Strengths: Good sized young player with nice arm strength and good complimentary athleticism. Was able to graduate in January from Henderson County High School and participate in Kentucky's spring practice. Threw for over 9000 yards in his high school career with 92 touchdowns.
Weaknesses: Inexperience. Was unable to overtake either Woodson or Pulley in the Spring.
: 6'6" 190 pound Freshman, Canton, Ohio
Strengths: Impressive height and outstanding arm strength. Rated the #31 pro style quarterback nationally in the class of 2005. Excelled in the talent rich Canton, Ohio area for Glen Oak High School. Good athlete despite height and thin build.
Weaknesses: Will have to put on some weight to avoid being such an inviting target in the pocket to SEC defensive ends. Inexperience. Fidler presumably ahead due to time in the Spring to learn the offense.
Kentucky's coaching staff has a difficult decision to make in that they are not simply selecting a quarterback, they are selecting a style of play. If Woodson is given the nod, the offense will feature more down the field passing. If Pulley is selected, the offense will consist of more quarterback draws, bootlegs and option plays. Whichever the choice, it must be made quickly, so that the selected system can be honed in fall camp. As the old coaching cliche' goes, if you've got two quarterbacks, you've got no quarterbacks. Ultimately, despite Pulley being named number one in the Spring, the most likely choice is Woodson with his experience and ability to stretch the field. Look for Fidler and Hartline to redshirt barring injury.