There’s an old expression in football that says if a team has two potential starting quarterbacks, it really has zero starting quarterbacks.
The Gophers used both Demry Croft and Conor Rhoda at the position last season, and the results were often less than ideal during P.J. Fleck’s 5-7 debut.
But what if a team has four quarterbacks?
Sorry, still zero starters.
But that’s the position the Gophers football team and Fleck find themselves in this year after Croft transferred and Rhoda graduated. After a few spring practices, there isn’t really any more clarity on how things will sort themselves out when the Gophers open the season Aug. 30 vs. New Mexico State.
The candidates are redshirt freshman Tanner Morgan, junior college transfer Vic Viramontes, sophomore Seth Green and true freshman Zack Annexstad. They are all tied in a very important category: Division I passes thrown (zero), meaning this is a true competition in every sense. Fleck has already said he’d prefer to settle on one starter instead of using two QBs this season.
But figuring things out is going to be … fun? That’s at least part of how Fleck is approaching it.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do there. We have a bunch of guys that have never thrown a pass in college football. That’s not an excuse, that’s just reality,” Fleck said Tuesday evening at the conclusion of practice. “That’s the fun of it. We get to develop from the ground up. But I think we’re making strides. … We have to take major, major steps forward as we continue in the spring.”
Fleck said practices have been different already this spring because of the inexperience at the position. Coaches are running more simulated scrimmages and pushing the tempo to get the young QBs up to speed as quickly as possible.
Fleck wants to evaluate the candidates on “the things we talk about making an elite quarterback around here. Getting the ball at your hand, making decisive decisions, moving in the pocket well, being comfortable in those positions,” he said. “It’s hard when you’ve never really played quarterback and thrown passes. It’s difficult to do as you’re becoming ‘the guys.’ I can’t say ‘the guy’ because we don’t have a guy yet, but the guys.”
Green and Morgan have an edge in leadership so far, Fleck said, simply because they are returning players familiar with the program and their surroundings. Viramontes and Annexstad are “just finding a way to get themselves in the right spot and throw to the right guy,” but Fleck is confident their leadership will shine through as the spring and summer wear on.
As the process plays out, Fleck said he expects the four to separate themselves not only with their skills but with the amount of work they put into their craft. Less than six months from now, four will become one — and we’ll no longer be able to say the Gophers don’t have a QB on their roster who has thrown a Division I pass.