Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Is There a Real QB Question in Pullman?

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!


Stiffmiester said...

All the kudos in the world to Lopina for his grit and perseverance in the trip through Dante's Inferno that was last years season. That being said, his arm just isn't there for the deep ball. His tendency to want to tuck and run with the knowledge that he has a previously broken neck makes me cringe. Loebestal did show a good arm and has the personality to draw the team around him. If he has learned from his off season problems (note don't go to the keystone kop station when drunk) I feel he is our best shot. It was written here how as a red shirt frosh facing his first starts in BCS football how he put the time in the film room. That is the devotion we need if CPW's no huddle is ever gonna work. Just my 2 pennies worth.

Selahcoug said...

I have to go with the Lobster as well. He does seem to be the better QB, with the better arm and more poise. I do hand it to Lopina for hanging in there and really wouldn't mind if he started out the season as the starter with Marshall getting a few series here and there. That would give the Lobster time to work his knee into game shape slowly and kind of see what they can both do on the field. Getting both experience will be good no matter what.

It would be nice to redshirt Levy Jr., but I think it may be more beneficial for him to get some experience as well going into next year. If he redshirts, he is in the same class as Tuel with little experience and will have the kid out of Ferris right behind him. I think he may never have a chance then. Get him some time this year and he could be a solid back up to the Lobster next year.

The Coug-A-Sutra said...

I love all of our potential quarterback prospects. But if we want to win games this year, then Bhagwan Ocho needs to be our man.
I give him three Coug-A-Sutra Carma Cameleons.

Thank you, Sean.

Sean Hawkins said...

I am a heavy Rojo lean myself. He has the most upside of any of them on the roster right now, and it is time to push him out of the nest and see what happens. I like the deep touch, I like the moxie, I even like his feet. He moves pretty well, even though he will never be a big rushing stats QB. But provided the knee is sound, he's my guy as well.

Lopina intrigued me last year. But I remember watching every throw he made vs Baylor, as well as some "iffy" throws vs Portland State. Even when healthy, you guys are right, the arm strength just isn't there.

The guy who pops out on tape? Tuel. Anyone who can take a couple of minutes and check him out on Youtube, I would highly encourage it. I know, high school highlights and all that, and anyone can look like a star. But he looks like the complete package with the arm and the legs (you can search for him by name on the right sidebar of the blog with the new search feature. We embedded a video of him from last year, and it is pretty impressive).

But overall, Rojo's my guy this year. 2010 sets up nicely with Rojo, a redshirt soph in JT, and a redshirt frosh in Tuel by then!

Anonymous said...

I think QB play depends as much or more on the O-line as on the QB, and you can double that if the line is absolutely god awful, like ours last year. You can't judge these guys by how they did in their first starts when they didn't have more than 2 seconds to get comfortable and make a throw before getting pummelled by the D, and no running game to go to either (also, not entirely the RB's fault).

The QB injury problems weren't coincidence or bad luck last year. It was an epidemic of unblocked defenders.

That said, Rojo.

Sean Hawkins said...

We were kind of waiting to go over the line, but you are right anony. I didn't think the line play was that terrible though? I think it was not great overall, but remember that they started what, the first 6-7 games of the year with a different starting five up front? It was impossible to build any consistency when things were that much in flux. And I actually think the line is going to be the strength of the O this year, given the amount of depth returning plus Williams getting into the mix.

But your point is well-taken. Several games last year, it wouldn't have mattered if Bledsoe himself was back there under center. Bad line = bad offense. Sort of like unhappy wife = unhappy life??

Anonymous said...

Agreed that there were some athletes on that line, but the constant rotating the first several games probably killed them. What can you do?

I'm just saying that you might see something completely different out of any one of those QBs if they get a chance to get into a rhythm and build a little confidence.

'03CouveCoug said...

The easiest way for me to answer this question was to go back to the fall of 1999. Some of you may recall the hangover of a season that 1998 was following the magical Rose Bowl season of 1997. Coming off that 3-8 season in 1998 that saw Steve Birnbaum and Paul Menke splitting time, the coaches had another decision to make going into 1999…stay with Birnbaum (Menke had graduated) or give the reins to a redshirt freshman named Gesser.

Given that the situation then virtually mirrors the situation now (coming off of a miserable season, with the upcoming season not looking much better), I think we can use 1999 in hindsight to make our decision now. Was it better that Birnbaum as a senior took the majority of the snaps and still led the offense (and team) to a crappy season while Gesser spent the majority of the time on the bench (save the Apple Cup and Hawaii games)? I think we all know how we’d answer that question in retrospect. I must add on that even at the time, I thought Gesser should be starting…and somewhere in the KHQ video archives, there is a drunken interview of me saying as much before the opener vs. Utah! Mom was so proud when she saw that on TV…

We must all give due respect to Lopina for putting up with and fighting through everything he did last season. That being said, he’s not going to be the player to put our Cougs in bowl contention, healthy or not (not saying that Lobestael will!). Assuming that Lobbestael is 100% healthy (a BIG assumption at this point), I think that the staff has to go with the redhead to continue building to a brighter future.

Longball said...

03 Couve,

We gotta find that video! Dennis Patchen, we need you!

I remember after that game the Utah QB who went to the same high school as Gesser (Darren Arceneaux?) totally called out the COugs saying they had a winner of a QB on their bench and should go with him instead Birnbaum. You don't get advice like that from the other team too often and he and Couve Coug were right.

This year i have faith that Ocho gets the nod if he's ready (heeled). I think we all carry a little paranoia from the Brink days that a coaches pet project may get the nod over a better player, but i don't see that here. This staff wants to win and they will throw Dan Wagner out there if he is the guy lighting the place up in Fall camp.

Of course as a true blue Pullman Greyhound i gotta comment on mini-Levy. He is an outstanding athlete, so I hope the Cougs find a way to get him involved, even if its not at QB. Kinda like Seneca W for the Hawks. Also, it seems to me from watching them up close in drills that Levy has the stronger arm, compared to Lopina. Not sure I would hold him back with a redshirt.

This is all moot when Mr. Tuel gets goin. 60 yard TDs, by land or by air, all throughout that highlight reel.

'03CouveCoug said...


If there was a way for me to get my hands on that footage, I'd be all over it! Geez, what an IDIOT I was...I hadn't even been on campus for a month (I was a freshman) and already there was public record of my drunkenness...I remember the phone call I got from my Mom the next day..."So, I see that YOU'RE having a good time at college..."

Oh, and great memory...it WAS Arcenaux at QB for the Utes! And he did call out our staff for sitting Gesser. Pretty funny stuff!

As for our situation this year, you're right when you say that if The Lobster is truly healthy, he'll almost certainly get the nod. The staff raved about his preparation last year before he got hurt, and noted that he made his way to the film room every day on crutches even after his injury. I think that with his superior physical skills (minus the scrambling ability of Lopina) along with his preparation make him the choice to make this team better not only this season, but in future seasons as well.

Allen said...

I see it as Lopina's job to lose. He took it from Rogers and only lost it due to injury. Kevin had a very good Spring practice session, while Marshall was out/limited. I have no problem with either of them getting the nod, but imho it's Lopina on day one.

KopravicaHater said...

Lopina couldn't throw a touchdown all season long. Not one.

Screw 'em.

Lobster it's gotta be!