Scoggins: QB controversy can be a positive for the Gophers

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2012 - 11:13 AM

With quarterback MarQueis Gray (pictured) out for about a month because of a high ankle sprain, Max Shortell (5) will take over as Gophers quarterback. But when Gray returns, could the team make use of both their contrasting talents?

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Gophers football team doesn't just have a possible quarterback controversy. It also has a quarterback opportunity.

No, seriously. Why not look at the advantages along with the potential quandary that awaits the coaching staff once MarQueis Gray's injured ankle heals?

The Gophers have two quarterbacks with two different skill sets. They have different strengths, different weaknesses, different personalities.

Gray is a better runner and athlete, Max Shortell is a better passer. The offense relies on both facets, and the coaching staff trusts them in different situations.

So why not use both to maximize that position? It's worth considering to see if a tag-team approach provides some benefits.

Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit acknowledged that his defense had to recalibrate its game plan once Gray left and Shortell entered Saturday's game in the second quarter.

"No offense to Gray," he said, "[but] you have a guy who can throw it around a little bit more."

That's precisely the point. Why not use both to keep defenses guessing?

This is not a call for a 50-50 quarterback split. Or even 80-20 necessarily. But some combination of the two might make the Gophers offense less predictable by giving defenses different looks.

Normally, we subscribe to the theory that any team that believes it has two starting quarterbacks actually has none. Quarterback rotations can turn awkward and divisive and downright messy if not handled properly. It's up to Jerry Kill and his staff to manage that issue.

Few things in football stoke fans and media like a good, old-fashioned quarterback debate. Coaches hate them, we love 'em. People choose sides and argue the merits of their preferred quarterback, as if there's only one correct answer.

The Gophers' situation could get resolved before it ever reaches that stage. Gray suffered a high ankle sprain and likely will miss a few games. Shortell will get an opportunity to prove himself as a starter in the interim.

The sophomore played well in relief Saturday, passing for 188 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in a 28-23 victory. Let's see how he does in a different role against defenses that are prepared for him, starting Saturday against Syracuse.

If Shortell gets on a roll and the team responds, he should remain the starter. If he struggles, Gray gets the nod. If the results are in the middle, the talk show phone lines are open. Regardless, both have skills that should be exploited.

Understandably, this potentially could become a delicate issue. That's just the nature of the position. Plus, Gray is deeply respected inside the program and carries a certain status as a senior leader. Players look up to him. That's not to be taken lightly.

Ideally, Gray would have done enough in the first three games to render this a moot discussion. Yes, the Gophers are 3-0 with him as the starter, but he struggled against UNLV in the opener, attempted only eight passes against New Hampshire and completed three of six passes before departing Saturday's game. That game had a bad vibe until Shortell took over.

The coaching staff clearly opened up the passing portion of the playbook when Shortell entered the game, and the Gophers need to get with the times in that regard because college football revolves around freewheeling passing attacks. Last year in the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A), 24 quarterbacks completed at least 65 percent of their passes. Gray completed 50.7 percent as the Gophers ranked 109th nationally in passing offense.

Gray, however, gives the offense a dynamic that shouldn't be eliminated if Shortell remains the starter. He's too athletic and talented to just stand on the sideline. Any thought of using him strictly as a running threat or in a predictable wildcat formation also should be ignored.

Give him several series under normal circumstances. Put him in shotgun and let him pass. Heck, line him up in a backfield with Shortell with several options. The Gophers tried Gray in a change-of-pace role as a freshman with little impact. He's a different player today.

If Gray returns as the starter once healthy, the Gophers should mix in Shortell as a changeup, too. He's proven that he can give them a spark off the bench.

The concern with this approach is its effect on the offense's chemistry and rhythm. Sometimes it works, sometimes it bombs. But it's worth a shot. The Gophers are facing a brewing quarterback controversy. They might as well make the most of it.

Chip Scoggins

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 118 FINAL
LA Lakers 123
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 4 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Calgary 0
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL
San Jose 6
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 75 FINAL
Arkansas State 65
Georgia State 88 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 74
Troy 55
Portland 46 FINAL
Gonzaga 64
Kentucky 69 FINAL
Missouri 53
Eastern Ky 78 FINAL
Murray State 85
Texas-El Paso 71
Idaho State 76 FINAL
Northern Colorado 79
Grand Canyon 78
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Utah Valley U 78
Colorado 98 FINAL
USC 94
Cal Poly 57 FINAL
UC Irvine 67
Hawaii 84 FINAL
CS-Northridge 73
Pepperdine 50 FINAL
Pacific 43
Santa Clara 64 FINAL
San Diego 69
Utah 59 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 64 FINAL
UC Davis 70
Montana 73 FINAL
Portland State 54
Montana State 59 FINAL
Sacramento St 75
Long Beach State 91 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 85
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
St Marys-CA 68
San Francisco 74 FINAL
BYU 78
California 76 FINAL
Washington St 67
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 41 FINAL
LSU 70
Portland State 31 FINAL
Montana 72
Sacramento St 64 FINAL
Montana State 91
North Dakota 55 FINAL
Weber State 48
Ohio State 85 FINAL
Wisconsin 73
Northern Colorado 61 FINAL
Idaho State 70
San Francisco 63
St Marys-CA 56 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 49
Pacific 63 FINAL
Pepperdine 59
Cal-Irvine 61 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 58
San Diego 64 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
UC Davis 64 FINAL
Cal Poly 72
Long Beach St 64 FINAL
Hawaii 72
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?

Weekly Question