These thoughts followed a question on the HI.com Insiders board on the differences between current quarterback coach David Lee and the man he replaced last spring, former UA star Joe Ferguson.
So, we decided to flesh out our response with some depper thoughts on how David Lee is doing in his job of developing our young quarterbacks ... Zak Clark, Ryan Sorahan, Matt Jones and Tarvaris Jackson.
First, let me say that I think the future is bright as far as quarterback at the UA. These four players all have some outstanding abilities. They have both physical ability and mental capability to play quarterback in the SEC. And, David Lee is the right man to bring them up to that level.
Are our quarterbacks on that level now? No, but they are getting closer. Zak Clark is beginning to do things in both practice and games that excite all of our coaches and his teammates. There is nothing like a quarterback getting you in the right play at the line of scrimmage to excite the rest of the team. It's a confidence thing that makes everyone better, coaches and players.
Zak can do this because he's had a spring and now a fall to digest what Lee is asking him to do at the line of scrimmage. Sorahan, Jones and Jackson are starting to see it, too, and will be better quarterbacks the rest of this season.
Now, on the Lee versus Ferguson question, and it's a tough question to answer without stepping on toes or making people look badly. I'll try it though, because everyone else is trying to answer it.
Joe Ferguson was not a match with Houston Nutt. Heck, he is pretty much a loner anyway. He was as a player, and was as a coach. Joe clicked with some players, and didn't with others. We know that was the case with Clint and Robby, but not the case with others. A coach must develop every player. And, he must try to reach all of them. You have to know how to push different buttons for different players. That was one of Joe's weaknesses, and it appears to be a strength with David Lee.
Joe was easy going. He coaches and if the coaching took, then fine. If it didn't, he moved on.
David Lee is intense. He is more demanding. If a QB messes up in practice, or makes the wrong steps in a drill, he will be running laps. I have never ever seen a UA quarterback run a lap in all of my years of covering practice, but I've seen it this year. You get it right when you are held accountable.
I think David has improved all four of theQBs. He is going to make Tarvaris a better quarterback. He is helping Zak, Ryan and Matt, too.
I'll never forget seeing the look David Lee gave Tarvaris Jackson on the field after the Alabama game. David came from the booth and ran out to the middle of the field to get Tarvaris as the players were mingling on the field. David got Jackson's arm and looked him right in the eye to ask this question about the interception that was returned for a TD: "What were you looking at and why did you throw that ball?" It was an intense inquiry. He was coaching his young QB, and wanted to know the exact thought process, and get it changed. That's coaching, IMO.
David Lee is absolutely the right man for the job at this point. He also gave us a new recruiting ace in south Texas, IMO. He knows those coaches. He's helped coach many, many high school coach on how to coach quarterbacks. He is a great tactician, a great teacher and a smart veteran coach. He is a true coach ... a ball coach. That's his life. It's all he's wanted to do for all these years.
Again, I have nothing against Joe Ferguson. I would be stunned if Clint didn't give Joe credit. But, I do know that Clint should not give anyone credit for what really made him a great Arkansas QB ... and that was his heart. He damn well was going to make a play when he was on the field. He was not going to be sacked. He found a way to buy himself some time to find a receiver. He would not go down. How many times do you remember someone knocking the crap out of Clint, only to see him bounce off and run away to an open spot and then find Anthony Lucas. No coach taught him that. It was in him from the time he stepped on this campus. He was a fighter and a winner. That was something Joe never had and something no one could teach Clint Stoerner. And, no QB coach can make an Anthony Lucas. I only wish our present QBs had an Anthony Lucas to make some big plays down the field. Then, our QB coach would have some real fun.
It's exciting to watch David Lee correct our quarterbacks in practice, both in pre-practice warmups where he is constantly studying mechanics footwork and the way ball arrives at its target. He has drills for throwing on the run, and for dropback throws. He has barrels set up to see if the ball is coming down at the right trajectory for certain throws in the UA offense. He is meticulous in his coaching and in what he demands from his players. He is also excellent in making sure the quarterbacks understand their keys, and very demanding when they don't read them correctly. He is the right coach for these young quarterbacks, plain and simple.