Webb emerges for Jayhawks

First-year KU head coach Turner Gill said at football media day that he likes to see his quarterback fill the role as team leader.

He also said, however, that the youth and inexperience of his quarterbacks meant that his squad would likely need to look to other players in other positions for leadership.

Maybe not.

On Tuesday, Gill announced that red-shirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb would be his starter against #15 Georgia Tech.

On Saturday, Gill picked up his first win as KU head coach, in large part thanks to Webb. The 6-0, 210-pounder wasn't perfect, but he was pretty darned good.

Webb connected on 18-of-29 passes for three touchdowns and an interception that should be credited to WR Bradley McDougald, not Webb. KU receivers also dropped three other passes. So, yeah, for the most part, Webb was pretty accurate.

Maybe more important than that, however, was Webb's emergence as a team leader. Gill said Webb showed lots of positive signs as soon as he was named the starter.

"He was upbeat about himself, I liked his body language," Gill recalled. "And the other players responded to him, and that's what you wanna see in your quarterback: you wanna see the other 10 guys respond to your quarterback when he's in the huddle, when he's on the field, when he's off the field." I saw people building energy off the quarterback."

Once he was announced as the starter, Webb started conducting himself like a starting QB.

"I definitely stepped it up a little bit. I knew I had to take on more of a leadership role more than I had, and the guys responded really well to it," he said.

Hard to argue with that. The Jayhawks showed signs of life from the start, coming out firing, even though they punted after six plays from scrimmage. They threw on five of those plays and Webb was sacked for a loss on the sixth. They converted two first downs, moved the pocket and generally looked like they had a spring in their step under the guidance of their new quarterback.

Webb said, "We knew we were going to be able to do some things after the first series. We missed a couple of things on the first series and after the second series, we had a lot of confidence."

And for good reason. The Jayhawks went 60 yards in seven plays, capped off by a 15-yard TD pass from Webb to WR Bradley McDougald, on their second series.

Webb said he was pleased with the energy the team showed. "We came out and we executed and we played hard. When we do that, we're gonna be pretty good."

TE Tim Biere, who pulled in a second quarter two-yard TD pass to stake the Jayhawks to a 14-7 lead, was impressed with Webb's presence.

"He keeps a cool head, but when he's gonna go, you can see it in his eyes, and when he's fired up, he's ready to go. He did a great job leading the team up and down the field."

WR Daymond Patterson (seven catches, 85 yards, one TD reception) agreed: Webb's young, but he's shown great leadership all week.

"When you're playin' quarterback, the spotlight's on you. All eyes are on you, so you've gotta be a leader, whether you want to or not. We just fed off Jordan today comin' out there, and he played really well and led us to a victory," Patterson said.

Gill said it isn't just on offense that the quarterback makes a difference. A good quarterback commands respect on both sides of the ball. "(A QB's leadership) carries the emotion to your defense. I saw that, and I saw people building energy off the quarterback."

"Jordan's a great player," LB Steven Johnson (11 tackles, five solo) said. "Jordan just went out and just picked up the whole team. When we saw the offense come out and score, the defense said, 'Alright, it's on us.'"

The Jayhawks prepare for their first road trip of the season, heading south for Hattiesburg to take on Southern Miss. Gill said that the first win of the season and the first time on the road present interesting challenges: how will the team respond to their first win since last October? How will they respond to playing in someone else's stadium?

The good news is, after the past two weeks, he now has one less thing for him to worry about this week.

"Jordan Webb is going to be the starting quarterback," Gill said with certainty.

Biere was willing to think a little more big picture: "I think we definitely saw a leader being born out there (Saturday)."

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