SAN ANTONIO, Texas—One by one, Big 12 coaches took the podium at the 2007 Big 12 Media Day on Monday and one-by-one, they all seemed to be answering the same question from the media: “Coach, who will be your quarterback?”
Most replied with something to the effect of: “I don’t know, yet,” which is ironic since so
many Big 12 teams are loaded (or boast at least one standout) at wide receiver.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops was first on the hot seat, and like any good coach who’s been speaking to the media for a while, he refused to give an answer. He did however narrow it down to three candidates and explained what he liked about each player.
Junior Joey Halzle, redshirt freshman Sam Bradford and true freshman Keith Nichol will all compete for playing time this season in Norman. Halzle and Bradford probably have an edge on Nichol just from an experience standpoint, but Stoops refused to favor any one player just yet.
“Halzle is a young guy that has maybe the most experience in game preparations for the last year or so and a little more maturity in age, but he doesn't have a lot of time just on our campus,” Stoops said. "Bradford was a highly recruited guy a couple of years ago that's made great progress and he’s got great size. He worked really hard as well—they all worked hard—but again (he has) limited experience, but we like what we've seen.
“(Nichol) is a young guy that was just there through winter and spring, graduated high school early but got great ability as well,” Stoops said. “He's got great feet to run along with a strong arm, too.”
All three may get a chance to play early in the season until one of them steps up and becomes the team’s natural leader, which is very important for Stoops.
The Sooners have a talented tight end in Joe Jon Finley (honorable mention All-Big 12 in 2006) and two explosive junior wide receivers in Malcom Kelly (second team All-Big 12 in 2006) and Manuel Johnson. But it won’t matter if Stoops can’t find a quarterback to get them the ball. Kelly and Finley both said they weren’t worried about it because all three candidates are capable of stepping up.
Nebraska wasn’t in much better shape than their former Big 8 Conference rival, although their quarterback problems don’t stem from NCAA violations. Last year’s Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Zac Taylor graduated and left the Cornhuskers without much of a proven quarterback, at least a proven quarterback at Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers have two guys at the top of the tryout list in senior transfer Sam Keller, and junior Joe Ganz.
Keller transferred from Arizona State after suffering an injury and losing his starting job. He averaged more than 300 yards per game in his starts at ASU, the question is, will he be able to step into Callahan’s offense for just one year and will Callahan start him in 2007, only to be in the same situation next year with a senior starting for just one year.
As solid as Keller was at Arizona State, he probably transferred across the country (and away from one of the best looking student bodies in the nation—no pun intended) to be a back-up for another team based on Callahan’s comments on Monday.
Ganz was a solid backup last season and performed well in spring practice. He hasn’t seen much meaningful playing time, but he understands the offense and he’s worked with Nebraska’s talented receiving corps for three years.
"We're pretty well stocked with good experience," Callahan said. "(We've) got guys who love to compete and love to play football. We will name the starter a week prior to the Nevada game."
The more things change, the more they stay the same. With five new coaches and five candidates for quarterback (yes, five) this year, not much is known about the Bears, except that they’re going to have a tough time digging out of the sixth place spot in the Big 12 South.
Fifth-year senior and Kent State transfer Michael Machen is at the top of the depth chart heading into fall practice, but Tyler JUCO transfer John David Weed, sophomore Blake Szymanski, redshirt freshman Tyler Beatty and junior walk-on Ryan Roberts are all vying for playing time.
"The situation has clouded rather than cleared," said Baylor head coach Guy Morriss. "John David has closed the gap on Michael, but I don’t think throwing 7-on-7 during the week gets (Machen) real excited to be honest with you. Michael is a guy that I feel like when we tee it up in the fall will be there. I’m not going tsay he’s going to be our starter, but we’ve got better depth than we’ve ever had before. It will be a two-man race going into two-a-days and camp."