Campus Insider - Skill positions unsettled?

Coming off a game where Allan Evridge was inserted in the final minutes, could there be a change? Will the Wildcats have a new starting signal caller on Saturday? Will there be change at the top at running back, as well? Coach Bill Snyder addresses these issues and discusses who is pushing for playing time and who may return from injury.

With Dylan Meier out, Allen Webb has been the undisputed No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart this season. After all, he has been in the program for over two years and earned valuable playing experience last season. Four games into 2005, Webb has struggled with accuracy and mental lapses on occasion. The result? Red-shirt freshman Allan Evridge is now being mention in the same breath as Webb when the Wildcats quarterback situation is discussed.

"I think (the competition) tightened up considerably," Snyder said, when asked whether Saturday's loss at Oklahoma had affected the race for the top signal caller spot.

Webb completed 11 of 23 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns at Oklahoma, while tossing one interception. Evridge entered the game partway into the fourth quarter and complete three of six passes for 49 yards.

Webb appeared somewhat shaky in the pocket in the Oklahoma loss, but some of that could be attributed to the lack of time he was provided to throw the ball, Snyder said.

"There were times when he had to get out of there, and there were times when he could have stayed in there." Snyder pointed out Webb's interception as a play where the quarterback left the pocket when he could have stepped up in the pocket and been safe.

Snyder said he actually intended for Evridge to enter the game a few series before he actually ended up taking snaps, but Webb's play kept him from doing so.

"I went with Allen Webb one more series and he got it down the field and got it in the endzone. I thought, maybe we better do this again. It was a couple series before Allan Evridge eventually came in."

A tight competition is now evident, but Snyder said that no one should think the team has gone as far as they can with Webb at the helm. "That's not the case at all," Snyder said." "But if we honestly believe that competition at any given position is really important and helps everyone get better, and therefore helps us become a better football team, then we have to adhere to that competition. (Evridge) has performed well enough (to merit competition) in two outings, and has tightened the race."

Competition has also become tighter at the running back spot, Snyder said. Junior Thomas Clayton started out the season strong, and currently leads the Big 12 in rushing, while red-shirt freshman Parrish Fisher stepped in when Clayton was suspended and earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Both backs had impressive resumes entering Big 12 play, but they combined for just 24 yards in Norman, Okla. Snyder said the running back competition wouldn't be decided on what happened at Memorial Stadium. "Neither of them had a ballgame to make any rash judgments about at all. But I think, prior to that ballgame, it had tightened up considerably."

Fisher said the tighter competition has not affected practices at all. "I'm still getting the same amount of reps," Fisher said.

Snyder said Evridge has made continual improvements throughout the season. "He's gained a considerable amount of knowledge," Snyder said. "More importantly, he's retained the knowledge, and a step above that, he's been able to retain the knowledge and then execute it with maybe not as many repetitions on the practice field as you would like for a quarterback who is going to be on the field to get."

Evridge said he's doing all he can with the reps he receives. "I'm just taking every rep and trying to improve," Evridge said. "I've got a lot of catching up to do. I'm just trying to take advantage of every situation I get, and trying to turn myself into the player I want to become."

The Wildcats have played through tight quarterback competitions in the past, most recently Webb and Meier last season. Others include Ell Roberson and Marc Dunn in 2001, and Jonathan Beasley and Adam Helm in 1999. Unfortunately for the Cats, 1999 was the only season of those three that saw a nationally ranked finish or a bowl game victory.

The Wildcats are also experienced in splitting carries among running backs. Joe Hall, Frank Murphy and David Allen split carries in the late '90's with Mike Lawrence and Eric Hickson splitting carries earlier in the decade.

Webb or Evridge, Clayton or Fisher - whoever enters the game as starter may not necessarily finish the game. When asked whether one quarterback would be given less leeway with a capable backup behind him, Snyder said that's something that cannot really be decided until you're on the field. "Hopefully, you've been doing it long enough that you get a feel for it," Snyder said. "Sometimes it feels right, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes the decision you make is right, and sometimes it isn't."

Whether it's Webb or Evridge taking snaps, teammates are confident both can get the job done. "Whichever quarterback is out there," sophomore receiver Jordy Nelson said, "we just run the same routes, and they'll get the ball to us."


Boss returning?

Snyder said that offensive lineman Matt Boss has a better chance of playing on Saturday. Boss, who left the North Texas game with a knee injury, did not suit up against Oklahoma.

So that's what it was.

In addressing special teams, Snyder jokingly talked about the "mystery snap," or the punt snap where the punter was notably absent. "There was a reward if anyone in the stands caught it," Snyder said. "We were going to give them a free trip back to Manhattan."

Norwood's positive performance

Snyder said starting tight end Rashaad Norwood played the best game of his Wildcat career on Saturday. "Not just because he caught the ball well, but I thought he did some other things well.. I thought he was a step above, and I thought his effort level was a step above what it had been."

Diles starting? Not yet.

Snyder said junior linebacker Zack Diles continues to improve, but is not ready to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot with senior Ted Sims just yet. "He's closer (to competing for the starting spot) today than he was a week ago today. I think each week he's made progression towards that end, but he's still a few steps away."

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