Note: The following was published in the Grove Bowl issue of The Ole Miss Spirit that served as the game program for the Red-Blue game. Each positions was broken down by the assistant coaches in that issue. For those who didn't get a chance to go to the game, we will publish all the stories here over the next week or so. We have also added stats from the game and tweaked the articles a little. To those who generously donated to the Wobble Davidson Scholarship Fund and have already read these offerings, our apologies.
It's no secret what the quarterback position went through in 2006.
Coach Ed Orgeron and Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Dan Werner were not bashful during the offseason in saying, paraphrasing, "we have to do better and be more consistent" at QB.
This spring, the competition for the position has been wide open, meaning last year's starter, rising senior Brent Schaeffer nor any of the signal-callers has been guaranteed anything more than an opportunity to prove they can do the job.
Orgeron and Werner have not tipped their hand this spring – during closed practices – which candidate is making the most strides. All they have said is that there is no clear-cut starter yet, that decision may not be made until late August, the competition is open and none of them, right now, has done enough to warrant many pats on the back.
Coach O has said repeatedly in post-practice interviews that he wasn't saying anything about the quarterbacks until "they do something special." Through 14 practices, he has said very little.
While that may paint a bleak picture of the quarterback situation, one gets the feeling that is not the intention.
In fact, Werner has been more on the upbeat side as spring has progressed about his group of players taking snaps under center. While he has refrained from showing any favoritism and talking too boldly about his group, the catch phrase to this point has been "we are making progress."
Last season, as a refresher course, Schaeffer was 115-244 (47.1%) with nine TDs and 10 interceptions. Rising senior Seth Adams, who played more toward the end of the year, was 17-31 (54.8%) with no TDs and no picks. Both return.
Those are not, to be blunt, winning numbers.
Consequently, the necessity for open competition for spring, which includes Brent and Seth and redshirt freshmen Michael Herrick and Cliff Davis, was born. Transfer Jevan Snead is going through spring drills, but is not eligible for the 2007 season.
"Every quarterback on this team understands the urgency of getting better and has been working toward that," said Werner. "They are doing what I expect them to do. They are working extra, giving good practice effort and watching film on their own.
"I expected improvement from them and have seen that in spring. We still have more improvement and progress to be made, but I see advances," Werner said.
Dan has mentioned – several times – he's not looking for miracles. He's searching for a quarterback who simply runs the offense with consistency and limits mistakes, i.e., turnovers.
"We need our quarterback to play within the offense and direct traffic. When an opportunity arises to make a play, go out and make it," Werner continued. "I'm not looking for spectacular, I'm looking for steady. I'm looking for good decisions, proper reads, the right checks, things like that."
Orgeron has intimated after a couple of practices that Adams has taken the most reps with the first team this spring, but he and Dan are both quick to point out the meaning in that is not overly significant at this stage of the game.
"Seth has been real steady," said Werner, beginning his individual assessment in no particular order. "He understands our checks and the run game. He knows the offense better than anyone right now. He's a student of the game and a bright young man. What I need from Seth from this point on is to show us he can do more than run the offense – we need him to make more plays when there are plays to be made."
Dan talked about Davis next.
"Cliff has a big arm. Athletically, he can play at this level. Flat-footed, he can throw the ball 70 yards," Werner continued. "His challenge is his football knowledge. Cliff has been out of the game for several years and he's playing catch up with learning the offense, reads, progressions and the other things.
"He's working hard and I can definitely tell a difference in his understanding of the offense. He just needs to keep studying hard and learning."
Schaeffer, who we recently interviewed and received an "I'm not happy with my spring performance" statement from, was the next one Werner discussed. Again, Dan was not talking in depth chart terms.
"Brent's timing with the receivers is better and he knows the offense better now," Werner allowed. "He just needs to keep hammering away with his consistency. We need him to make good decisions every play and to progress in those ways. Brent knows what he needs to do to win the job. Nobody doubts his capabilities, but he's got to turn potential into production on a more frequent and consistent basis."
Herrick got good spring reviews from the QB boss as well.
"Michael has shown me a lot this spring," Dan expressed. "He understands the passing game – coverages, reads, progressions – very well. Mentally, he's really sharp. He's worked real hard to get bigger and has put on 15-20 pounds since he has been here. He's a guy who can, and will, help us in the future and the future could be 2007 for him."
Snead comes to Ole Miss from Texas with impeccable credentials. Dan said Jevan appears to be what he was billed to be – an excellent QB candidate of the future for the Rebs.
"Even though we could not give Jevan a lot of reps this spring due to the fact he can't play next year, it is apparent he's athletic, he's got a good arm and he's smart – everything we thought he would be. I'm real excited about his future here," Werner closed.
Quarterback Overview: Obviously, the ideal situation would be to have a starter for 2007 identified at the end of spring, but is that really that big a deal that Werner doesn't? From our cheap seats, no, it's not. All four of the candidates got adequate work in spring, we were told all four made progress and we don't detect a world of concern from Werner. He feels the progress will continue in the offseason and next August. Dan was mostly pleased with spring. That's a good sign, but he will be the first to say the Rebel signal-callers are that catch phrase of several Rebel positions at this stage of the new season – "a work in progress." Here's hoping the urgency and improvement continues.
Postgame QB Notes: Since this was first published, Cliff Davis has decided to leave the team. Even though we have not talked to Cliff about his departure, everyone in attendance saw his number was not called in the Red-Blue Game so we are assuming that factored into his decision not to return. . . Adams was about as efficient as it gets in the contest, going 16-20 with no picks, 159 yards and one score. He directed the Blue squad to a 23-21 win. . . Herrick, who backed Adams up on the Blue Team, was 1-5 with one pick. . . For the Red Team, Brent Schaeffer started but played only two or three series, completing 2-5 passes for 13 yards and 1 TD. Brent aslo rushed 4 times for 28 yards with a long of 24. . . Transfer Jevan Snead played a majority of the game and was a respectable 7-12 with one interception for 56 yards and 1 TD. . . . Postgame, Werner and Orgeron both declared the positionw as still open heading into the offseason, but they both acknowledged Adams stated his case for the 2007 job most effectively in the contest.
Spring grid breakdown
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