Every college football coach has his "thing." For some, it is a stable of running backs. For others, it is a plethora of bodies in the secondary or a healthy stock of offensive linemen.
However, nowhere is stockpiling more controversial than at quarterback, and rightfully so. Personally, I'm not a fan of grabbing as many talented quarterbacks as possible. But for some coaches, it is not only a way of life, but a must to succeed.
You see, unlike running backs, secondary players or even linemen, you can only play one quarterback at a time. Running backs can spell each other and work in tandem. Secondary guys have a multitude of ways to get on the field. Linemen often platoon and rotate to keep bodies fresh.
Oh, and all those guys can help on special teams.
Then you have quarterbacks. They might hold for field goals. Maybe. But they most certainly won't do enough to be major factors on special teams.
On the field, you can only play one quarterback at a time. Spare me the two-quarterback set that Louisiana-Monroe ran; that's taking a guy off the field who can actually block, run routes, catch and be a threat.
Which brings us to the dilemma at quarterback. In theory, you'd like to have one who can start for two to three years. Behind him would be his successor, and behind him a redshirt freshman who will be ready to start in Year 3 as a redshirt sophomore.
However, in practice, that's not how it works. Quarterbacks don't pan out. Injuries derail careers. Players get to a school and find they don't like it. Poor grades stop kids from being eligible. In other words, there are a lot of moving pieces to the quarterback conundrum.
On one hand, you have four or five players on scholarships who can't help your run defense or your pass defense or your offensive line problems or contribute on special teams. They can't even participate as a scout-team player in any of those areas.
At best, they play quarterback on the scout team, run 9-on-7 drills or throw one-on-ones. They likely also stand around at practice while your ones and twos get reps, signalling in plays or talking to the offensive coordinator.
It is a delicate balance that must be struck because quarterbacks are quite fragile; both in the recruiting process and in their development as players. Rarely are quarterbacks one of the "last guys in" as far recruiting classes are concerned.
They have to be romanced. They have to be stroked. They have to be coddled by the offensive coordinator and the head coach. They have to be sold hard on how a school loves them and needs their skills and will help develop them.
So when a quarterback commits, that's one less spot out of 25 that's available. Over two or three seasons that can be three, four or five guys that you have had to pass on in favor of getting quarterbacks. All were guys who could have helped your team.
But, in the grand scheme of things, that's college football. Having the best options at quarterback that you can and seeing how they pan out is a necessary evil. Look at Southern Cal. Going into 2013, if all things hold, they will have four-star quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, plus incoming five-star Max Browne. Don't you think Lane Kiffin would love to trade one of those guys for added depth on the defensive or offensive lines?
To answer the original question, there really is no right answer. Certainly, stockpiling quarterbacks is bad when you have a glut of them and not enough bodies at another position. At the same time, when you're stocked elsewhere else and still haven't found your guy to take snaps, finding more options is a must.
Developing quarterback talent is something some coaches do better than others, and keep in mind that "developing" is a relative term.
Some coaches are searching for perfection. That search leads to these coaches always looking to replace the guy they have for one who "could be better." Other coaches are far more concerned with being "not terrible" at the position. That leads to focusing on other areas of their roster as they have "their guy" and the player they hope to groom sitting behind him.
It's an inexact science, but there is a method to the madness. Many coaches are willing to sacrifice that extra body elsewhere on their roster in the pursuit of perfection at quarterback. Like it or not, stockpiling is what they do.
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