Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Greetings Coug Nation. As usual, we hope you enjoyed a nice, long holiday weekend. But now that it's behind us, time to start looking ahead. Over the last few months, we've spilled an awful lot of ink looking at the upcoming opponents for good 'ol WSU. But now, with news slowing to a trickle in this historically slow time of the year, what better time to take a closer look, oh, I don't know....the Cougs??
And with that, what better place to start than at the most important position on the field, the QB? And with some pretty good timing at that, as Cougfan yesterday ran a poll in regards to who should be the QB in '09, Marshall Lobbestael or Kevin Lopina. Did you vote? Further, have you seen the results? As of 6:30 AM today, it's Ocho Rojo in a runaway.
At first blush, it seemed a little surprising that this was even being asked of the Coug Nation. After last year, with an extended look at Lopina and just a glimpse of Lobbestael, the consensus was that young Marshall was the QB of choice, provided he could bounce back from the rough knee injury. But is it so clear-cut? Is there a chance that this will be Lopina's job after all? Paul Wulff has been quoted a couple of times this off-season in saying that Lopina's the returning senior, but Marshall Lobbestael will get a full opportunity to compete for the job. And what about the young wild card in all this, J.T. Levenseller? Let's take a look....
First, the senior returner, Kevin Lopina.
2008: 87 for 153, 841 yards, 0 TD's, 11 INT's. 56.9% completions. 5.5 yards per attempt. Sacked 23 times, for a QB rating of 88.66.
Really a rough line, all the way around. In nine games played, including eight starts, Lopina only broke the 100-yard mark in passing yards four times. That means the majority of his appearances, he was only in double-digits in yardage. And to never find the end-zone in eight starts is kind of hard to fathom.
But it also must be said that the vast majority of Lopina's playing time came after he suffered the fractured vertebrae. In fact, six starts came after Lopina was knocked out with the injury. And anyone who watched him play post-fracture could see he wasn't up to speed. Not that he played "soft" or anything. The guy did play hard, as well as stepping forward with leadership in the locker room when the season was completely unraveling. For as bad as last season was in Pullman? Without Lopina calling out some of the quitters, it could have been much, much worse. As in, probably no Apple Cup win.
And let's face it, the guy did make ONE big play on the season, a play that will probably live on in Apple Cup lore (check out the throw to Karstetter, about a minute into the video):
I guess the reality is that Lopina has to at least be acknowledged for doing what he could last year. To grit through the bulk of the season coming off the broken back, and to show leadership along the way, says a lot about the young man's character. One can envision that even if he doesn't win the job this fall, that he'll still be there to help keep things together. But who knows. Now that he's healthy, maybe we'll get to see the "real" Kevin Lopina? The one that had people excited after he transferred in from Kansas State? The one who was a high-profile QB recruit out of Cali powerhouse De La Salle?
Now, Marshall Lobbestael.
2008: 53-for-103, 571 yards, 4 TD's, 4 INT. 51.5 % completions. 5.54 yards per attempt. Sacked 12 times. 103.08 QB rating.
Not exactly blow-you-away numbers either. Granted, Lobbestael was a redshirt frosh, and he did only start three games last year. So we never really saw what he was - or wasn't. The "small sample size" argument has to be made here. While he passed the eye test on a lot of plays last year, and showing some real touch on the deep balls he completed, the jury is still very much out on Lobbestael.
But again, we're talking about a redshirt frosh dropped into the heat of the battle. For his first-ever game action at such a young stage of his career, he was more in survival mode vs. climbing the superstar ladder. And while the completion percentage is a concern, and the yards per attempt isn't a good thing, the fact that he more or less held his own under some pretty adverse conditions might speak volumes about what's to come.
The good news is that the kid seems to have some sort of "it" buzz going for him. The coaches have raved about him since early last year in regards to his leadership and personality. Players appear to really like the kid. So far, everyone raves about what they've seen of him thus far. So he's got that going for him. Which is good.
Finally, young J.T. Levenseller.
2008: 17-for-34, 134 yards, 0 TD's, 2 INT's. 50% completion percentage, 3.94 yards per attempt, with a passer efficiency rating of 71.34.
Numbers alone make this one difficult, if not impossible, to really judge. He never started a game last year, appearing in just four for the lost '08 season. He did show some good mobility, and in his last game vs. Hawaii was 6-for-11 for 53 yards, including a season-high 28-yard completion. But again, still far, far too early to make any judgments here.
Health was an issue for young Levy as well. He missed most of spring ball with a broken tibia, and while he should be recovered for camp next month, well, who knows.
In an ideal world, provided both Lopina and Lobbestael can stay healthy in '09? With Lopina the senior and Lobbestael the more established young QB of the program, one wouldn't mind seeing JT get a redshirt season this year. Then, when Lopina graduates after 2009, you could have Lobbestael as the starter as a junior, JT Levy as a RS-sophomore, and the promising young recruit, Jeff Tuel, a redshirt-frosh ready to compete in 2010.
So there you have it. A glance at the QB situation as we roll towards fall camp. What do YOU think? Is it Marshall by a landslide? Should Lopina be given a fair shot, now that he's healthy and most experienced? Or does Levenseller deserve a long look as well?
Enjoy your Tuesday, and as always, GO COUGS!