Making The Case For: Playing Both Clark and Devlin


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Quarterbacks: They're important. This is the final in a short series in which we will try to decipher which quarterback will give the team the best chance to win.

It has been one of the hottest topics of discussion among PSU fans all summer long. Should we take a shot on the African American quarterback just because his Alamo Bowl performance reminds us of Michael Robinson and ignore the fact he hasn't proven anything in the passing game? Or should we take a chance on another five star Pennsylvania quarterback with an impressive high school resume with just one pass attempt in two years and hope he's more Kerry Collins than Anthony Morelli? 

On Monday you heard Kevin give the case why Daryll Clark should be our quarterback.

So In Conclusion: Clark brings the whole package to an offense that desperately needs both options and confidence, both of which he can provide.  One of the things that made Robinson great was his ability to overcome some of the terrible play calling from the OC(s).  When the coaches showed their lack of creativity, MRob forced defenses to continue to play him straight up because of the different options he brought to the table.

Clark does those same things.   A minor detail, yet still relatively telling, is the fact that Rodriguez was interested in Clark and, coincidently, the Spread HD will probably share quite a few characteristics with new Michigan offense.  Besides having the talent to both run and pass in that type of system, he brings an attitude and sense of urgency that is more than welcome at this point.

And yesterday we heard RUTS plead his case for Pat Devlin.

In Conclusion: The reality is that while Devlin and Clark are sloppily labeled as the throwing and running quarterbacks, respectively, they're more similar than people think.  The question, then, comes down to, "What does this offense need most to succeed?"  We already know the Penn State offensive line is going to create problems for defensive coordinators, who quickly tire of their defensive fronts giving up 6+ yards per carry.  When the defense brings that extra defender toward the line of scrimmage, which quarterback do you want behind center in order to exploit the thinned-out secondary?  Who do you trust more to make the big play through the air?  No offense to fans of Daryll Clark, but if I have to pick one guy, give me the quarterback who ran a pass-happy spread offense in high school and doesn't need to be coached up quite as much -- Pat Devlin.

Both of them make excellent points. I can't make up my mind which guy I like better. Truthfully, I would be comfortable with either of them lining up under center when the season starts. So in my mind there can be only one solution: Play them both.

At this point the defense submits Exihibit A: The Oregon Ducks. Last season the Chartreuse Warriors started out firing on all cylinders on the legs and arm of their electrifying quarterback Dennis Dixon. A week two annihilation of Michigan was followed by a shocking upset of the USC Trojans. Sitting at 8-1 the Ducks found themselves ranked #2 in the BCS and in control of their own destiny. With the leading Heisman candidate on their team and a manageable schedule going forward it didn't appear anything was in the way of preventing Oregon from competing in the BCS championship game.

And then in the first quarter of their game against Arizona disaster struck when Dennis Dixon tore his ACL ending not only his season, but also the season of an entire school and fanbase. Oregon went on to lose that game. And then they followed it up with a 16-0 loss to UCLA and a double overtime loss to Oregon State. The offense without Dixon was never the same.
 

With Dixon Without Dixon
Rushing YPG 271 159
Passing YPG 239 158
Points/game 42.8 18.3

In four weeks the Oregon Ducks went from living out a BCS dream season with a Heisman Trophy quarterback to riding a three game losing streak and backing their way into the Sun Bowl. The moral of the story is always have a backup ready to go.

Lou Holtz is fond of saying "If you have two quarterbacks, you don't have a quarterback." Maybe this was true 20 years ago, but the game has changed in recent years. As the game becomes more and more complicated the players become more and more specialized. It's not uncommon to see most teams utilize a platoon of running backs. You have your first and second down guy. Then you have your third down guy for running passing routes. You have your short yardage guy. You have your blocking back if you need extra protection in the pocket.  On the defensive line you have your run specialists and your pass rush specialists. Heck, some teams have field goal kickers and another guy they use for kickoffs. It only stands to reason that with time the quarterback position will evolve to where you use different guys for different situations. Urban Meyer somewhat led the way in this regard when Florida won the 2006 National Championship on the arm of Chris Leak and the legs of Tim Tebow.

But even if Penn State doesn't plan on using a Chris Leak/Tim Tebow type setup, it's still a good idea to play both guys at least early on. If Jay and Joe plan on returning to the spread offense we saw with Michael Robinson in 2005, you can bet the quarterback, whoever he is, is going to take a beating. If you're going to run your quarterback between the tackles you better be prepared when he gets injured. If the guy sitting on the bench has one career pass attempt you can bet your poor preparation will ruin the hopes and dreams of 100 other players and millions of fans.

But then I shouldn't have to lecture Penn State fans on the value of developing your backup quarterback. In 2006 we all had high hopes for Anthony Morelli. We were all convinced he was going to destroy the school passing records even though he only had 20 pass attempts the year before. We quickly learned in week two against Notre Dame that Anthony Morelli was not adequately prepared to lead our team. Now skip ahead to the Michigan game. Morelli finally appeared to be getting his act together. He wasn't looking sensational, but he was managing the game well and had Penn State right in there. And then...

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Daryll Clark came in and looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Every time he found his primary target covered he panicked tucking the ball under his arm and running until he eventually got himself knocked out of the game as well.

So the answer is simple. Play them both. You call both guys in the office on day one and tell them they are both going to play. When one guy scores I expect the other guy to cheer. When one guy is down I expect the other guy to pick him up. Start one guy and let him play a quarter or at least two series. Then bring in the other guy for a few series. At halftime you evaluate their performance and play the guy the defense has a tougher time dealing with. By the time the conference schedule rolls around you have two guys each with 100 meaningful snaps under their belt that the team and coaches can have confidence in. This is what Penn State needs to do.

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