Dye-Gest Column: Making the Right Call at QB

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the importance of finding the right quarterback.

Watching spring football games on TV from around the Southeastern Conference that were held last weekend at Georgia, South Carolina, Ole Miss and Florida reminded me about the importance of having a proven quarterback on a college team’s roster.

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In my opinion the teams around the SEC who have returning starters at quarterback have a real advantage over the teams who are still trying to figure out who the right guy is for the 2015 season. Teams that Auburn will face in the SEC West this year like Mississippi State and Texas A&M who bring back talented, proven QBs have their opponents who are having to break in new quarterbacks playing catch up.

It can’t be over-emphasized how important it is to have the right guy leading the offense. The first priority for a college team is putting someone on the field at that position who won’t get you beat with his mistakes.

Coaches are also looking for leadership ability at the position.They want a guy who can step in the huddle and make everybody else around him better because of his presence on the field. They are looking for the guy who has the right stuff to make the critical plays on possession downs who is able to drive the ball late in games when that is the difference between winning and losing.

If your quarterback hasn’t done it before at the college level, coaches don’t really know for sure what is going to happen when their guy is under the gun and has to get it done. Right now there are a lot of teams around the SEC who will go into the season with uncertainty about how their QB will handle pressure situations.

Even though at Auburn I think the Tigers will be in good shape at quarterback with Jeremy Johnson having done well in his limited starting experience, there is no doubt the 2015 team will have a different identity on offense with Nick Marshall gone. Even though the Tigers will continue to be a running football team, they are not going to be same as last year because Marshall’s ability to run the ball was such a big factor in how opponents defended the Tigers.

Marshall helped win a lot of games the past two years as Auburn’s starting quarterback and a lot of the losses were not because of what he did. Instead, they were the result of the defense’s inability to consistently stop opponents.

I will be interested to watch how Auburn’s quarterbacks do in front of the A-Day crowd on Saturday in comparison to other QBs in their spring games around the SEC this spring.

Last year the Tigers had the luxury of a returning starter at the position who had helped the team win the conference championship the previous season and reach the national championship game, but they don’t have that now. Few teams do and even fewer have more than one of those type of quarterbacks, although defending national champion Ohio State is a major exception with three of those guys on its roster.

The only way to know for sure what you have got at quarterback is to put them on the field and let them compete. Experience and maturity are critical in making the right decisions, something that is true for both quarterbacks and coaches.

The coaches who choose the wrong player to line up at the quarterback position by going with a guy who can’t produce, or isn’t ready to produce, often have a big problem throughout the season. It is a difficult thing to undo and I know because I have been through it before. The right guy isn’t always the one with the most talent, it’s the one who can take control of the offense and find ways to help his team win games.

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