Tag Archives: Andre McDonald

Quarterback Controversies? What Quarterback Controversies?

The 2012 edition of the tilt for Paul Bunyan’s Axe contains one exciting subplot after another. Can the Gophers bounce back from subpar performances against Iowa and Northwestern? Will the Badgers be able to maintain their momentum fresh off their most complete victory of the season? Is Coach Kill’s seizure issue becoming a distraction for the squad?

But all those issues are secondary to the indecision that has surrounded both programs at the most critical of positions: quarterback.

The Gophers have run out two different starters during the first six games of the season: Marqueis “Maybe I Should Be Playing WR” Gray and Max “Stop Comparing Me To Andy Dalton” Shortell. The Badgers have deployed the tandem of: Danny “Seriously, I Am Not Russell Wilson” O’Brien and Joel “Freshman This!” Stave.

Coach Kill has flip-flopped worse than Obama…I mean…Romney…I mean, blast, cannot make a political joke without alienating half the readers.

Most recently, the Gophers have seen both Gray and Shortell fail behind the helm. This has only fueled the speculation over who should start. And while starting Gray at wide receiver and letting Shortell grow into the QB position might be the best approach for the team’s success now and in the future, Gray produces just enough magic when behind the center to continue justify giving him another shot.

The game against Northwestern is a classic example. There were a half dozen plays where Gray used his athleticism to escape Wildcat pressure and make a positive play. Most times those plays were with his legs, but occasionally he would find an open receiver. Unfortunately, he does not do this consistently enough to solidify his claim to the starting role. Furthermore, putting Gray at wide receiver still ensures his athleticism is on the field while, at the same time, improving the Gophers at a position of need. Unfortunately, the Gophers seem reluctant to name Shortell the starter.

Interestingly enough, Coach Kill has had success with two starting QBs (see Chand Harnish and Jordan Lynch), but I am not sure that same strategy will work with Gray and Shortell. Further, if Gray has any hope of getting a real paycheck to play football…er….I mean….to play for real money….I mean…..to play on Sundays, he had better get used to the idea of catching the football. What better way than to start showcasing his talents now. Accept the Hines Ward conversion and hope you can even have half the career he did in the National Football League. Plus, making a decision will probably give Shortell a shot in the arm and we can find out what we have with him.

Now, the Badgers have dealt with their QB controversy a little more affirmatively (and it may be the reason they are printing these same t-shirts next year too).

O’Brien started the year. Struggled. Bielema went to freshman Joel Stave, despite little pressure to do so, and Stave has returned a mixed bag. What seemed like a desperation move has seemed to spark the offense to a certain extent. Stave’s numbers are not overly impressive, as he has completed a tick more than 58% of his passes (significantly less than Danny Boy). But he has had made more big plays, completing one pass for 50+ yard in 3 of his 4 starts (O’Brien only had 1 in his 3 starts). It is this type of stat that has many clamoring for Bielema to let Stave off the leash and let him sling it.

Tolzein was certainly not the flashiest of QBs, but he completed nearly 75% of his passes in 2010 and had only 6 INTs all season. Game. Manager.

But, this type of football is the norm for the Badgers. If any major football program is known for producing game mangers, it is Wisconsin. From Jim Sorgi to Scott Tolzein, the Badgers have consistently had guys that thrived at not making mistakes and systematically marching the squad down the field. The play-calling has limited Stave to the game manager mode. But, he has demonstrated (in limited opportunities) that he has the skill set to be something more. Once the play-calling expands, the offense could really take off.

All of that being said, it might be Bielema’s decision to make a decision and name Stave the starter that separates the Badgers from the Gophers (and maybe gives them an edge — which means more of these shirts too). The Gophers lack an identity because their coaches seem unwilling to pick a horse and go with it. Stave, for all his differences from the Wisconsin mold, is the starter. The team knows it. The fans know it. But, maybe most importantly, he knows it.

Ultimately, it is Stave’s self-confidence that just might be the difference in this Saturday’s rivalry game at Camp Randall. While the Gophers QBs struggle to assert themselves, Stave can march out there knowing he is the guy. Misguided or not, that kind of confidence can be the difference between making a play when it matters and doing something that hurts the team. Controversy? What controversy!

Blockading The I94 and I35 Corridors

Three years from now, Gophers fans may look back on the incoming draft class of the 2012 mens’ football team as the beginning of the end of what has been a frustratingly consistent exodus of Minnesota’s most talented prep football stars.

McDonald is bringing his talents back to the West Bank.

Reports are circulating that Hopkins’ Andre McDonald has decided that he is going to bring his considerable pass-catching skills back to the University of Minnesota.  Calling his commitment a roller coaster might be the understatement of the year.  He originally committed to the Gophers in the summer of 2011, then, abruptly de-committed and committed to Vanderbilt.  With all the indecision and drama, locals felt like extras in an episode of Jersey Shore (minus the tanning and hair gel). When the coach who recruited McDonald took a job elsewhere, McDonald de-committed from Vanderbilt and eventually elected to return to the Gophers.

When asked why he decided to return to the maroon and gold, McDonald insisted that it was the perseverance and persistence of the Gophers’ coaching staff that kept him from taking the I94 or I35 out of town this summer.  McDonald’s recruitment is a great example of a shift that has slowly taken place with prep athletes in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  That shift, a renewed desire to play for and attend the University of Minnesota, can be attributed to Coach Jerry Kill, that leader of young men who is entering his second year as head coach.

For the past ten years, the prep football scene in Minnesota has been an untapped talent pool for charismatic coaches from around the country.  The Jim Tressels and Pete Carrolls of the world supplemented great teams with the top talent from Minnesota.  Perhaps the worst offenders were our cheddar loving neighbors to the East.  The Badgers’ coaches were annually making their trip on I94 to pirate the spoils of Minnesota’s prep scene.  Taking, not only some of Minnesota’s top recruits, but, also sniping the middle tier recruits that are the difference between a losing season and the Dippin Dots Chocolate Sundae Bowl.  And, make no mistake, for the Gophers, that Chocolate Sundae Bowl would be a significant improvement on the efforts of Coach Kill’s predecessor, the “Recruiter” Brew.

Ever the politician, Floridians and Texans took to the Recruiter like Kris Humphries at a Feminists for Life meeting.

A side-by-side comparison of The Recruiter’s “genius” with Coach Kill’s “aw-shucks” approach clearly exemplifies why closing the borders in-state is the foundation of any successful program.  When The Recruiter was hired, he was cast as just that, a recruiting guru from the national champion University of Texas.  This was the recruiter architect that helped build that team.  And, he promised the masses that he would persuade top, prep talent to brave Minnesota’s winters to play for the Gophers.  Unfortunately, while The Recruiter’s focus was in Florida and Texas, places where the University of Minnesota has less pull than Kris Humphries at a Feminists For Life meeting, the Badgers and other Big Ten schools were supplementing their rosters with the spoils that Minnesota had to offer.

When Coach Kill was hired, his first order of business, aside from moving Marquis Grey back to quarterback, was making a month-long trip around the State of Minnesota to meet with the local high school coaches that he no doubt hopes will feed his program for years to come.  Time and again, those high school coaches left luncheons and other coordinated, elbow-bumping shin-digs with the impression that Coach Kill meant business.  He was reshaping the way the Gophers were viewed in the Minnesota prep community.

His efforts took almost immediately and the results have been almost instantaneous.  According to most talent evaluators, Coach Kill has managed to lock down six of the top eight prep recruits in Minnesota, including the top three prep athletes.  If Coach Kill can continue to build on this success, it will not be long until the Gophers field a squad that can compete in the Big Ten’s Legends, or is it Leaders, Division.  Who knows, after Coach Kill has restored order to the border in Minnesota, maybe he can make his way out of state and do his best Recruiter impression in Florida and Texas.  This Gopher fan is just glad the homegrown talent is staying home.