Commentary: The QB Controversy

Here are some thoughts from HI.com Publisher Clay Henry on the budding quarterback controversy on the UA football team.

What would you do if you were Houston Nutt and you had a quarterback controversy like the one that exists now? First, it's not a quarterback controversy, but an offense controversy.

When you lack in as many areas as Arkansas lacks right now, it's not the fault of the quarterbacks, and it won't matter who pulls the trigger.

It's been odd, but that's where all the talk has centered over the last four weeks. First, the majority wanted Zak Clark benched in favor of Ryan Sorahan. Then, when that happened, many wanted Tarvaris Jackson elevated to starter with the season tossed in the can in hopes that the youngest of the Hogs' QBs would gain experience to lead the team in future seasons. Now, with Sorahan hurt, and Clark out of most of the armchair QBs doghouse, they want Clark to be the man.

What's really up with all of this, and which way should he go this weekend and for the future? I'm not sure I have the answers, but I'm going to give it a stab.

First, I trust David Lee's judgment, along with Houston Nutt's thoughts on this subject, too. I think they have played the QB that they have felt practiced the best, in most cases this season.

For awhile, they did go with Clark because of what he did in the spring and in the summer, which was probably the right way to go. Sorahan didn't have a full grasp of the offense in preseason, and needed some time.

Then , when everything flopped around Clark in the opener, he did, too. Nothing worked in the UNLV game for Clark. And, even Sorahan had trouble in his first few series because of the way the team played around him. There was that lone drive at the end, albeit a winning drive, to salvage things and get the team a victory ... and Sorahan the starting job.

But, it got no better, and it probably wouldn't have mattered who played quarterback. The Hogs couldn't block enough against Tennessee to help any of the quarterbacks, and Sorahan was the one tossed out there in the rain with a conservative game plan that wasn't going to produce many points against anyone, much less Tennessee.

Then, there was the change in the offensive line, which helped a little against Alabama, but also probably hurt a little, too. The pass protection failed a bit because of the changes in personnel with Shawn Andrews making his first start with Mark Bokermann and Kenny Sandlin both trying new positions. The improved power helped the run blocking, but enough assignments were missed to hurt the pass blocking. Along with that, Sorahan didn't play error free. He held the ball too long, and also committed a turnover that ended the Hogs chances ... if they had any. It was on that play that the QB saga took another sad turn. Sorahan was injured and now cannot perform.

So, Clark returns to the scene, this time more like the quarterback who looked in the spring like something you'll see elsewhere around the SEC. He took advantage of some more baby steps forward by the offensive line and the best game yet by the wide receivers to produce some meaningful offense at Georgia. And, the best news yet, showed an ability to check off at the line, something that had been absent from the game plan previously.

So where do the Hogs go from here?

First, Zak Clark continues as the starter because he earned another chance. No, he shouldn't be the starter forever, and certainly not the for the remainder of this season, unless he continues to add to what he did at Georgia. But, he does deserve another chance to step onto the field as the starter again this week.

And, that's the way it should be even if Ryan Sorahan was healthy. Of course, he isn't. He couldn't practice Wednesday and is doubtful for Saturday's game with that same bruised back.

Some would suggest that it's time to look at Tarvaris Jackson. That may well happen against Weber State, if and when the Hogs ever mount enough offense and defense together to get a safe lead. But, Jackson hasn't been setting the world on fire in practices.

Despite fans wishes for him to see more game time, Jackson has not been everything they think in practice. In the drills when a secondary is not present, Jackson's passes are impressive. He throws accurately and with zip ... possibly more zip than any UA quarterback ever. But, when secondary coverage is added, that accuracy disappears, possibly because he is looking at his defensive keys and not finding his receivers. He is young and is learning how to read secondaries. He still hasn't been able to do it on a consistent basis in practice. He'll get it some day, and be the quarterback everyone is drooling for right now.

Back to what should be done this week and the rest of this season ... and we are going to give it a real shot at answering the tough question of this week's internet message boards and talk radio shows.

The Hogs should start Zak Clark. But, they don't have to promise him anything more than that. He needs to continue to perform at a level that shows improvement from the previous week, or they can move to the next QB. That's the way it is, and the way it should be, and the direction the UA coaches will move.

Ryan Sorahan is not done. And, Tarvaris Jackson isn't destined to watch the rest of the year. Sorahan needs to get well, and Jackson needs to show that he can read secondary coverages and throw an accurate pass along with a strong, tight spiral.

Again, the key in this person's view is not the quarterbacks, but the rest of the offense. If the blocking continues to build on the last two weeks of slight improvement, the tailbacks are healthy and the wide receivers eliminate drops, the Hogs will be okay no matter which quarterback is under center.


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