- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Chris Petersen has a plan. Presumably, so do Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh and Gary Andersen. The details of those plans, however, remain known only to the company they keep. At least until kickoff.
“Who is going to be your starting quarterback?”
It's a question that is synonymous with the start of the college football season. Most coaches deal with this every couple of years. It’s the rare coach who is afforded a three- to four-year-window before hearing this question again.
While some have opted to announce their starting quarterbacks publicly -- see Josh Rosen at UCLA, Vernon Adams at Oregon and Everett Golson at Florida State – others are playing coy, taking the tune-in-to-see approach.
“I think everybody would have preferred we announce it,” said Washington’s Petersen, who is mum on which of his trio will start against Boise State. “Heck, we would have loved to announce it last year. We just got so close to game time before we kind of figured out what our plan was going to be, we just thought at this point it doesn’t really do us any good. We’ve got a couple of different quarterbacks. They are all unique in style and different. We didn’t feel it was really an advantage at this point to announce our strategy or our plan for it.”
This would imply the Huskies are likely to use more than one quarterback. At least that’s what Petersen wants us to think. And now Boise State is thinking about it. And Petersen knows they know they’re thinking about it. And he wants them to know that he knows they know they are thinking about it.
See where this is going?
So perhaps there is a bit of gamesmanship at play. But Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said there was little need for that when he quickly pulled the trigger on graduate transfer Vernon Adams, who will make his Duck debut, ironically enough, against his former squad Eastern Washington.
“I think providing confidence and clarity when it’s there is a good thing,” Helfrich said. “And here it was clear enough and significant enough to move everyone forward. Whether that’s the starter or the roles subsequent to that. That was the best course of action.”
In the case of Andersen at Oregon State, he has already said at some point we’ll see Seth Collins and Marcus McMaryion in their season opener, and their roles will be situational. Who takes the first snap is semantics.
“Their ability to manage the team is very, very important,” Andersen said. “Their ability to make plays that allows the offense to keep functioning down the field. That’s easier said, it’s a little bit harder done. They both run our base offense and then there are some specialty plays that fit their ability level. Each is a little different for different situations.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who makes his return to college football against Utah, has been staunch in his secrecy. Saban has been slightly more sarcastic.
“Look, I don't have a gun to my head saying, 'OK, if I don't know this by Saturday, I'm going to miss church and go jump off a bridge,'” Saban said. “I'm not there yet.”
Mora simply wanted to minimize distractions heading into Week 1.
“It just felt like the time was right,” he said of last week’s announcement that Rosen would start. “It was really more of a gut decision than anything. Wanted to do it as we began preparation for Virginia to clarify things for the quarterback and the players on our team. I learned a long time ago from the great Bill Walsh, the sooner you can present to your team a decision that is of some importance and that is going to effect a lot of people, probably better to help people assimilate and get more comfortable with that position.
"You want the players in the huddle to get a good feel for that guy. You want that guy to get a good feel for being in that huddle. You want the player told he’s not going to be the starter to have time to process that information and I think that it eliminates a lot of distractions you might have if you wait.”
Unless it’s actually Jerry Neuheisel who takes the field against Virginia. Now that would be gamesmanship.
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