Coach Richt came strong, then back pedaled a bit from his initial statement that he plans to allow for contact on the quarterbacks in scrimmages this spring. That seems like modern-era sacrilege with the focus on safety and especially quarterback coddling but it’s a method that takes serious consideration when you have a QB race and no front runner. Below I make a case for both sides of the non-contact jersey debate.
In a QB competition, having QB’s live can let a coach see the players responding under pressure. Coach Richt himself said, “We’ll know if a guy makes a move and gets five yards, or if he gets tackled and fumbles the ball, or he secures the ball or whatever it may be.” Right now with only Malik Rosier having in-game experience it’s imperative to see these QB’s under pressure, running with the football, and responding after a sack. Coach Richt said, “How are you going to react then you get hit in the mouth and then you have to get up for the next play?” he added, “Can you stand in there and throw a strike and then somebody hits you? That’s part of being a pocket passer. We will throw out of the pocket.”
I agree completely. With an open race and when planning an offense that will include some running game from the QB, plus pocket passing, and sprint outs, you need to see who can pick up yards, who can take a hit and not fumble, and who can respond to adversity. It’s hard to see adversity with a quick whistle in a scrimmage. Coach Ken at Navy has instilled a method where the returning starter, Zach Abey, wears a non-contact jersey while the up and coming QB’s are live. Coach Ken said, "I know Zach Abey can run the ball. I've seen him in live games. I know what he can do," he added, "These other guys haven't really shown anything yet."
In this theory, Malik Rosier could get a non-contact jersey, however, his main playing experience was one game two years ago and not under the current coaching staff. As a coach that has run the option from the shotgun, mixed in with pocket passing and a sprint out game- I want to see if healthy QB’s can play at this level. In my personal experience, when I’ve had an incumbent he has been given the non-contact shirt while the young guys (at high school, they play other positions anyway) are live. Our rule would also include if he scrambles or is in an option run he’s open to be hit, in the pocket let him throw. This avoids the QB being hit on the elbow or shoulder while throwing but also proves whether he can pick up those 5 yards Coach Richt is talking about or not.
My reasoning for avoiding contact on the Quarterback is simple- the defense is ahead of the offense in the spring and with an Offensive Line being shuffled daily, I would worry about your young QB’s getting gun shy during their maturation phase. Cade Weldon, for instance, would be taking snaps behind the third string OL that is made up of true freshman and guys with limited in-game experience. You have to fear a Joey Harrington or David Carr type issue where they’re battered around so young they develop bad habits and a fear of being hit that they don’t step into the pocket with poise.
With the defense ahead, and especially this Manny Diaz defense that’s loaded with talent in the front seven and a DC that likes to bring pressure, the QB’s may get beat down and lose confidence and create bad habits that are difficult to correct. Coach Diaz wants to rep his defense and their calls appropriately and a live-QB may limit his blitz packages if the Offensive Line can’t handle it early on. Do we really need to see Evan Shirreffs or Jack Allison destroyed by Shaq Quarterman or Chad Thomas?
When breaking in a new center or having a stud 3-tech going against weaker offensive lineman, it made more sense in my programs to quick whistle and keep the DL off the QB. This allowed the QB to grow and gain confidence as spring turned into fall.
We the fans won’t get to see much action this spring but I’m assuming reports will leak from the scrimmages, and from the Boca HS scrimmage, and we will learn about the young QB’s and their ability to command the ‘Canes offense. We can only hope someone emerges and leads Miami back into the national title hunt, contact or no contact in scrimmages.