Oldtimer's Take: Quarterback Evolution

The past month has left me wondering if quarterbacks that can run and pass are what it takes to be successful in the Pac-10 today? Does USC need to make a change in its philosophy of what its quarterback should be able to do?

Are QBs that can run and pass the wave of the future in CFB?

I know when things have happened in my life by what was going on with USC football. I attended my first game in 1951. On Sept 20, 1968 I was dating the future Mrs. SColdtimer. I had saved $2,000 for college back then. But when I met Mrs. SColdtimer I quickly spent all my money on her. I spent my future on her.

Sept 20, 1968 was a Friday night and I was taking Mrs. SColdtimer out for her birthday, but I began to bleed internally. My dad rushed me to the hospital. I vomited all night and had to have three units of blood the next day on Saturday.

But I still listened to the USC - Minnesota game on my transistor radio. OJ Simpson had a great day and USC pulled the game out 28-20 on two late touchdowns.

I had surgery on Sunday, and the first thing I said when I woke up was, "Who won the game between the Rams and the Steelers today?" The Rams beat the Steelers 45-7 and Roman Gabriel had a big day.

I was released from the hospital in the morning on Saturday October 5th and was at the Coliseum that night for USC's home opener against Miami. The Trojans rolled over the Hurricanes 28-3. USC was ranked No.1 in 1968 going into the UCLA game. They beat the Bruins 28-13. A 21-21 tie with Notre Dame the next week dropped the Trojans to No.2. In the '69 Rose Bowl OJ Simpson fumbled 4 times and USC lost to top ranked Ohio State, 27-16.

I can remember every USC-UCLA game since 1951, but I might have forgotten Saturday night's game if it wasn't for all the excitement in the last couple of minutes with a great drive against a tough Bruin defense by USC QB Matt Barkley and the Trojan offense. There was also that long pass to Damian Williams with 52 seconds to go. I guarantee you UCLA won't ever forget that pass.

I'm bringing up the past, because I want to establish that I've been around college football a long time. I've seen a lot of changes in the game and especially at the QB position. I've seen a lot of things, but I've never seen USC have so much trouble with a running QB as I have over the past month. Even though UCLA doesn't have what you would call a dual threat QB, they still used Senior Kevin Craft to run the ball effectively on Saturday.

UCLA also had its one score out of the Wildcat formation. I'm not sure the Bruins could have sustained any drive Saturday without using their QB to run. It will be interesting to see how Arizona uses their QB on Saturday.

Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, who is a transfer from Michigan St, is a drop back passer, and that should be good news for the Trojans and this Oldtimer's nerves. Foles has rushed for minus 77 yards this year. Just the thought of another QB stomping up and down on the coliseum turf over the ashes of Coach John McKay could get a guy my age institutionalized.

The past month has left me wondering if quarterbacks that can run and pass are what it takes to be successful in the Pac-10 today? I can't think of anything that burns my toast like watching Andrew Luck and Jeremy Masoli sailing down the middle of the field with clear water ahead. Third-and-11 was not a problem against USC. Drop back 5 steps, count to three, and run for the first down.

USC QB Matt Barkley has no such options as Luck, Masoli and Craft did. What the USC coaches talked about these past couple of weeks is teaching Barkley to throw the ball away and punt. USC's quarterbacks don't seem to have a lot of options if the play called from scrimmage breaks down. The Trojans punted 8 times this weekend.

Teams that face a drop back passer like Barkley never have to worry about where he will be on third down. A USC quarterback is easy to find. He will be right in the pocket, and he isn't going anywhere. USC quarterbacks don't run.

Stanford's Andrew Luck was easy to find as well. He was about 10 yards past the line of scrimmage just past the first down marker. Oregon's Jeremy Masoli was floating down the middle of the field against USC for 48 yards.

UCLA QB Kevin Craft wasn't as effective Saturday night. But he's not a running QB. UCLA was just trying to capitalize on what it saw as a hole in the Trojan defense. But the Bruins didn't have the tools to make it work as did Oregon and Stanford.

So are quarterbacks that can run and pass the future of college football? Does USC need to make a change in its philosophy of what its quarterback should be able to do?

I took a look this weekend at the top ten teams and their QBs. Florida's Tim Tebow and Texas Colt McCoy can run. In fact, they can run very well and both schools convert third downs. These guys can kill you both ways. Colt McCoy killed Texas A&M with a 65-yard burst up the middle. Tebow broke Florida State's back over and over with third down runs.

TCU, who killed New Mexico Saturday, has a junior QB Andy Dalton that can slice and dice you. The Horned Frogs have the 4th rated offense in the country. Dalton had run 86 times for 457 yards before the New Mexico game.

Cincinnati's Tony Pike can scramble, but he's mainly a drop back passer. Pike is 9th in the country in pass efficiency. But he is also good at scrambling away from the rush and picking up key first downs. Pike was back after being out 3 games and cut Illinois in two with his passes Saturday.

Alabama's QB Greg McElroy is a middle of the pack passer, and the Crimson Tide depend on their great running back Mark Ingram and defense. Boise State's Kellen Moore can't run at all, but he has 36 TDs passes and is 1st in passer rating at 172.5. Stanford's Andrew Luck is 14th in the country in passing and runs for over 5 yards a carry.

Georgia Tech runs a triple option so of course their QB can run well. LSU's QB is mobile.

Boise State and Cincinnati don't play the kind of schedule USC does. They are not in tough conferences like the Pac-10. But both schools do prove you can do well with a pro-style passer. But he has to be very good. A drop back pro style passer can't be 58th in the country in passing efficiency where true freshman Matt Barkley is right now and be effective.

USC's pro-style drop back passer and passing attack can still function well in college football. Boise State and Oregon State use it to perfection. But they both have very experienced QBs. Think about USC's record in BCS games under Pete Carroll. The Trojans are 7-1 in BCS games using a pro-style offense and drop back passer. And none of those BCS wins were close.

USC's offensive attack is not out of date. It's just tough to pull off with a QB that just came on campus last spring. There's a reason USC has never started a true freshman at QB. When a QB doesn't have the option to run in college football, he has to be very accurate, and he also has to be able to make things happen when the play that's called breaks down. And he can't turn the ball over.

Matt Leinart's greatest strength was in what he didn't do. He didn't fumble the ball, he didn't force things and he didn't throw interceptions. Hopefully Barkley will eliminate mistakes with a year of experience under his belt.

A USC QB has to get great protection from his offensive line. And he has to be able to execute USC's offense well. He has to have a very talented supporting cast.

Matt Barkley should gain a lot from his experience this year. Let's hope the investment USC had made in Matt will produce great dividends in the future. USC doesn't need a running QB to be successful. They just need to execute the offense they are playing better.

But I wouldn't be unhappy if USC had a QB someday with Barkley's arm and also some jets to run with.


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