Over the past three years, when talk of the quarterback position came up, it always included Jonathon Smith. After finishing his career as the second leading passer in Pac-10 history, he will no longer be taking snaps. But discussion of the current quarterback position would not be complete without mentioning him.
Smith won't be playing, but he'll be on staff as an offensive graduate assistant. He is still around to monitor the progress of sophomore Derek Anderson. Anderson has earned the starting role in spring practice. It was not too much of a competition. Anderson was challenged this spring by junior Shayne House, sophomore Adam Rothenfluh, sophomore Ryan Kanekeberg, and freshman Matt Dickinson. Dickinson has apparently left the program after not getting many snaps in practice. He rarely participated in drills. House has been battling injuries since the day he got to Corvallis and that hasn't changed. Rothenfluh and Kanekeberg have shown that they have the potential to be quality backups.
Anderson has an incredible arm, throwing for distance, strength, and accuracy. His physical tools are as good as any quarterback's the Pac-10 has seen over the past few years. In the spring game, he threw an incomplete pass 40 yards across his body on the run and seemed to do it without effort.
But physical tools can only go so far. Before getting too geeked up about Anderson, remember for every superstar QB that has come in and out of the Pac-10, there has also been a Carson Palmer or Kyle Boller. Guys who were highly acclaimed, but failed to reach their potential. Anderson has shown that he still needs experience. Dennis Erickson explained after the April 20th scrimmage that playing Derek last year put him way ahead of where he would have been. It's easy to think that it would be nice to have him around for four more years, but the experience gained last year will put him miles ahead of where he would be this year had he only played on the scout team.
Erickson has praised Derek all spring and says he is a smart player. With Erickson, Smith, and Tim Lappano around to tutor him, Anderson will have some of the best teaching in the country.
If Anderson is injured, the offense will only drop off slightly. The contrast in the play calling during the spring game demonstrates the abilities of the respective quarterbacks. The white team, quarterbacked by Anderson, threw deep consistently, while the black team, quarterbacked by Rothenfluh and Kanekeberg, focused more on shorter timing routes.
Rothenfluh is listed second on the depth chart and will likely be the backup. In the early days of spring practice, he looked better than Anderson. While Anderson was shaking off the rust, Rothenfluh was plugging along and showing his accuracy. He puts balls right on the money and rarely makes bad decisions. He does not force passes. This is clearly why he is such a great backup. He will not try to put the team on his back and carry them. He will work within the constraints of the offense and let the defense do its job. Rothenfluh may not ever start a game for the Beavers (I hope this is the scenario we see – it means Anderson is not injured), but he will be a large asset in case of injury.
Kanekeberg is by far the most athletic of the three. He can get out and run, but he is not of the Terrance Bryant mind set. That is, he doesn't take a step back and then run. He will go through his progressions and then if nothing is there, he will try to make something happen. He has a strong arm and also showed his accuracy this spring. He demonstrated he could also be more than adequate backup and could even overtake Rothenfluh because of his ability to run (and throw on the run).
House's story is a difficult one. He has had a rough go at things. He's been injured constantly and has not had a chance to get any experience because of his injuries. The first day of practice, he was throwing just fine in the early portion of practice, but then his arm got sore and was hurting a bit and had to sit out. The soreness didn't stop and he apparently re-injured his shoulder. Shayne is getting a second opinion on his shoulder and it remains to be seen whether he'll ever play at OSU. He won't play this year.
The quarterback position has talent. Losing Jared Jones hurt depth, but Rothenfluh and Kanekeberg will be good enough. The major negative is lack of experience as the combined starts by the QBs on the roster is 0. It will be fun to watch Anderson develop.
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