Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Adam Weber Era is Over

I'd like to thank Adam Weber for his services as the starting quarterback for the University of Minnesota. In Adam's two plus years as a starter he's admirably guided the offense, and the team, through an often difficult transition of change from one coaching staff to another, and has had not one, not two, but three different offensive coordinators in his three years as a starter. Despite those obstacles, he helped guide the team from a one win squad in 2007 to a bowl season last year, and halfway through this season has them at a 4-2 record and are in position for another bowl season. Adam, you gave all you could for the team under some tough circumstances, and have helped stabilize the program. If/when/hopefully Coach Brew leads us to Pasadena someday soon, we'll look back and know you were the quarterback who stepped up and helped us through the rocky years. For that we are forever grateful to you.

But the time has come to step aside, grab a clipboard and make way for the future, and the present. It's time for the starting quarterback job to go to freshman MarQueis Gray.

Am I over-reacting to Weber's abhorrent performance against Purdue? Partly, but not totally. If you've read us at all, you know we're not big fans of Adam Weber, and thus far he's done absolutely nothing to prove us wrong. Nothing. For me, Saturday's win DESPITE Weber proved the time is now to make the transition to a vastly more talented but inexperienced Gray, and start getting the kid ready to lead us to a New Year's Day bowl and hopefully beyond.

Before all of you Weber lovers start rolling your eyes, let me show you some numbers. You know, some facts to back up my opinion. I don't always love E!SPN, but their player profile pages have some good information. Here's Adam Weber's stats, and the numbers don't lie: in his third season as a starter in the Big Ten, with MORE talent around him than he's ever had, he's not getting better- he's getting worse. His numbers through six games look like this:

96 COMP 168 ATT 1224 yards 57.1% Comp% 7.29 YPA 6 TD 8 INT 14 SACKS 120.61 QB Rating

What does a QB rating of 120.61 mean? I have no idea, other than it ranks 84th in the country and second worst in the conference this year. Only Juice Williams of Illinois, who is making Jamarcus Russell in Oakland look competent by comparison, is worse, and Williams got benched last week. In the Big Ten, Weber's 57.1% completion percentage is third worst, his 8 interceptions are tied for second worst and his 14 sacks allowed are tied for the worst in the conference.

I can also tell you that through six games this is so far the worst of his three years as a starter, and again, this is with more talent than he's ever had. If you project his stats out for the rest of the year, every meaningful stat except yards per pass in 2009 will be down from his first two years. Well except two- interceptions and sacks taken. See for yourself:

Passing Yards
2007: 2895
2008: 2761
2009 (Projected over 12 games): 2440

Completion %
2007: 57.5
2008: 62.2
2009: 57.1

2007: 24
2008: 15
2009: 12

2007: 19
2008: 8
2009: 16

Sacks Taken
2007: 13
2008: 31
2009: 28

Obviously some of his numbers, like attempts, completions and yards, are down because we're finally able to run the ball more effectively, so he's not being asked to throw as much. So if that's the case and he's being asked to do less than past years, shouldn't he be more accurate, turning the ball over less and taking less sacks? Especially for a guy who's in his third year as a starter, and again, PLAYING WITH MORE TALENT THAN EVER?!?! Only twice this year has he had a completion percentage over 60 (a very efficient 69% in the win over Air Force and 65.6% in the loss to Cal), and only once, in the win over Northwestern, has he thrown more TD's in a game than picks.

Ladies and gentlemen, Adam Weber may be gutsy and saavy and a veteran leader, and whatever other intangible phrases you want to use: but what he is not is a very good quarterback, and six games- HALF THE SEASON- into his third year as a starter he's getting worse, not better. He is what he is: a gutsy native Minnesotan who is short on talent but long on heart and leadership. I know his teammates love him and think the world of him, and Brewster has been way too supportive of him, but this is what he is. This is his ceiling, and it's an inefficient quarterback who completes less than 60% of his passes, throws more INT's than TD's, and he's an average runner at best (In his first two seasons when there were more designed runs for him, his numbers were better but not great: he averaged a very respectable 4.2 yards per carry as a freshman but last year, just 1.8 yards per carry).

We know what Adam Weber can do, and we've seen the peak of his ability. For the good of the team this season, and especially for the future, it's time to see what freshman MarQueis Gray can do. We know Gray was the second rated dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, and at 6'4 and 235 pounds with good speed and a big arm, he projects to have much more talent and has the potential to be better than Weber. Much better. Weber at best is a caretaker, whereas Gray could be a gamebreaker. He's just a freshman who has thrown one incomplete pass and has a few QB keepers out of the wildcat this year, but it's time to unleash him and see what happens.

Honestly, you would not be throwing in the towel on the 2009 season because it would be hard for Gray to be much worse than Weber has been. Look at the gametapes and look what they're asking Weber to do, and Gray can and should be able to to do the same: find #7 as often as humanly possible. I don't buy all of this "Weber to Decker roommate telekenesis connection" people are talking about. That's bubkis. Eric Decker is SO good he catches anything within a three block radius of him, and even if he's double-covered he's shown he can make plays if the ball is anywhere near him. Really, the only time Weber doesn't go to Decker is if he's told to, and the designed play is to look somewhere else, usually tightend Nick Tow-Arnett down the seam, first. His throws to Tow-Arnett, Brandon Green and Troy Stoudermire have almost all been on first reads on quick patterns. And Weber has thrown behind enough guys- often when they're open- to make me think Gray couldn't do much worse.

We're seeing with Terrelle Pryor at Ohio State (the guy who was rated as the #1 dual threat QB ahead of Gray) that a four or five star blue-chip ranking out of high school doesn't automatically make you an instant success at quarterback. Gray's not going to be an All-American out of the gate, but Gray might not struggle as much as Pryor either considering he has a much better weapon in Decker and some nice complementary pieces to go along with him. Put Gray in, run some more wildcat and QB option looks to get him comfortable and take advantage of his ridiculous athleticism, and when he throws, ask him to do pretty much what you're asking of Weber: look for #7 as often as possible, except when we tell you not to and run plays with first-read quick hit routes for someone else.

Gray couldn't be much worse than Weber's been, and his ceiling is much, much higher. And think about next year: I don't care if Weber is a senior or not next year, but Gray should be allowed to compete for the starting spot in the spring, and if he's given a real chance, he's going to win it. So why not get his feet wet this year, and help make him even better for 2010 and beyond? Sure, it'd be a steep learning curve, but he couldn't hurt the Gophers anymore this season than Weber has, and his upside is far greater.

So thanks again to Adam Weber for all you've done for this program, but the MarQueis Gray Era should begin now.


Jeremy said...

I'm not QUITE as ready as you to give Gray the reins, but WITHOUT QUESTION he needs more reps, more of a chance to make an impact. If for no other reason than the fact that, as you so eloquently pointed out, Weber's performance has warranted it.

Another question: if this was all Gray was going to play, why didn't we redshirt him? If he wasn't redshirted, and if he's not going to get more of a chance to play... is he a flight risk?

Gopher Bandanna Guy said...

I'm also not quite as ready as to just hand the ball over to Gray yet. Weber has been largely dreadful this season, but he has been able to string together some nice drives in critical situations to help win some games (Syracuse, AF, Northwestern). His performance against Purdue was so abyssmal, it warranted benching him for a series or two. I think we're all glad the run game stepped up and allowed us to win while only throwing 10 times all game.

I'd compromise with this situation - lets rotate Gray in every 3rd series or something, getting him the reps he needs and if he gets hot we can leave him in.

I have to believe that if the coaches felt Gray was ready, he'd be playing much more. I've heard rumblings that he struggles reading defenses (but apparently Weber does now too), so that may be the reason. We don't need to shatter a frosh's confidence too early in his career. Especially with a line that could get him killed.