A Look Ahead: Quarterback

Quarterback could have been a strength for last year's Wildcat football team but due to injuries wound up becoming a weakness. When Willie Tuitama was in the game, the Cats were good. When he was out, which happened far too much, the Cats were not an effective offense.

Starters Returning: Willie Tuitama
Starters Lost: Adam Austin
Others Returning: Tyler Lyon, Kris Heavner
Others Lost: none
Newcomers: Bryson Beirne

If you include wide receiver Anthony Johnson, the Wildcats played four quarterbacks this past season. Of course that was not the plan. The Cats expected to ride the arm of Willie Tuitama with only the occasional appearance from Adam Austin in games that were already decided.

Of course, Tuitama suffered injury problems and then Austin went down with a knee injury against Stanford. The Cats resisted the temptation to pull Tyler Lyon from his redshirt and went with Kris Heavner instead against Oregon State.

The plan next year will be to again go with Tuitama. Obviously injuries are a concern, but there are indications that the head shots against Oregon and Arizona State were not concussions and he probably could have played.

That being said, Tuitama was still knocked out of three games, two with head shots and another with a leg injury. Add that to injuries suffered his freshman season and you have a player who needs to prove that he is healthy.

When Tuitama plays the Cats are a better football team. Plain and simple. In games he started and finished the Wildcats were 3-2 this year and 5-3 overall.

Tuitama needs to be the guy next year. His arm and his smarts are great, but it is apparent that the Wildcats thrive on his leadership skills. They just perform better when Tuitama leads them.

If Tuitama has more injury issues, expect redshirt freshman Lyon to take the field. Lyon was the second best quarterback on the team last year, at least physically, but the staff was not going to burn his redshirt unless absolutely necessary.

Lyon is a different quarterback than Tuitama. He's taller and more mobile, but not as thick. Like Tuitama he has a great knowledge of the game and has a very strong arm. He's got a great pedigree, his father is a junior college coach and he hails from Hart High School in Southern California, a program that cranks out D-I quarterbacks.

All indications are that Heavner will return. He should be granted a redshirt for the 2005 season and will have one-year left of eligibility. He would fill the same role that he did this year, that is a very experienced player who can come off the bench if needed. Few teams in the nation have a third string quarterback that has as many starts under his belt as Heavner.

True freshman Bryson Beirne will occupy the same role that Lyon did this season. Barring a rash of injuries he is sure to redshirt and gain experience, as well as a year of separation from Lyon.

The Wildcats are not expected to add any more scholarship quarterbacks in the class but could and should look to add some preferred walk-ons in hopes that there is another Adam Austin in the bunch.

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