UVA Football's Quarterback Quandry: Marc Verica Or Jameel Sewell?

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst ISeptember 8, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Jameel Sewell #10 of the Virginia Cavaliers drops back to pass during the Gator Bowl against the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on January 1, 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

No rest for the weary.

After a humiliating loss at home to FCS team William and Mary, you would imagine the Virginia Cavaliers would be anxious to get back on the field and try to make amends for arguably the worst loss in the nine-year history of Al Groh's tenure.

Be careful what you wish for, Cavalier fans.

Up next on the schedule for Virginia, the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs. The giant killers must see blood in the water after the Cavaliers new offensive offense resulted in 14 points and seven turnovers last weekend.

TCU knows that running the table could lead them to a BCS berth.  This is its chance to start the season off with an emphatic note by beating up on a power-conference team on the road.

For Virginia, this is a chance to save face and for Groh to keep the pitchforks and torches at bay...for at least a week.

However, turning things around will not be easy. The Cavaliers have problems and Groh's most important solution also appears to be the most difficult to find: a solid quarterback. 

Last week, Virginia used three quarterbacks in the same game. It was eerily similar to the infamous Western Michigan loss at home in 2006, when Cavaliers turnovers led to a humbling loss and Virginia emptied the depth chart in desperation to find someone who could run an offense.

That game ended with their third option, Jameel Sewell, taking the reins and—after some bumps and bruises—leading the Cavaliers to a Gator Bowl appearance the following season.

Now that history has repeated itself and we've seen the good and bad of all three quarterbacks, where does Virginia go from here?

Well, the first decision is a painful but obvious one. Vic Hall is not going to be our starting quarterback.

I know, I know, Virginia fans were clamoring for this guy to be on the offense and their dreams were validated with a huge run in the opening minutes to take the lead.  However, that score was not an omen of things to come, but a mirage of what could have been for the Gretna High standout.

I am not sure if it is that Hall cannot throw the football, or that the offensive coordinator has zero confidence in Hall throwing the ball. However, if Hall is not going to at least attempt to throw, defenses will rush all 11 guys and sack him for a loss each and every play.

He will never get out of the pocket and therefore will lose his greatest asset, his legs.

Against William and Mary, it was almost like all the other players would stop and watch Hall, waiting for him to do something.  If no one else is going to help him out and make plays for him, it makes the game pretty easy for opposing defenses.

Blame it on his height, his lack of experience, or even his terrible coordinator, but this experiment is about to come to an end before it ever began.

If that does happen, has anyone's career been more mishandled in the history of Virginia football? Groh took an all-star quarterback, changed him to cornerback, brought him back to quarterback, and now seems content to let his best play-maker stand on the sidelines until he muffs another punt near the endzone.

Groh is a great defensive mastermind who absolutely loves the X's and O's of college football, but for goodness sake, did he even attempt to think this game plan out? It literally seemed like the Virginia coaching staff did not realize Hall's diminutive stature would be a problem until the first quarter of the opening game.

What were they doing during training camp?

That leaves us with two options to be the Virginia quarterback: Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica. Two sides of the same coin.

On one hand, you have the terribly inconsistent Sewell, who showed that the more things change, the more things stay the same.  After a year away, Sewell continued to mix in a great pass here with an interception there.

Three interceptions in less than a few quarters of game time does not instill your team with confidence. 

Now did his accuracy seem a smidgen better? Perhaps. However, the question remains the same: will he ever be consistent enough to keep Virginia fans from pulling their hair?

On the other hand, you have Verica. The junior signal-caller had the best performance of the three last weekend against the Tribe, but let's be honest, that's like saying being punched in the face is better than being shot or thrown over hot coals.

They all hurt.

Verica did not exactly look bad, although his coordinator certainly did when they asked him to run out of the shotgun on 4th-and-1.

However, we all know better than to get sucked into this fantasy that Verica will become our football hero and will victory from the jaws of defeat. We already know how the story actually ends. 

He will do just enough to keep the team in it, and then, when the pressure is on, he will throw it to the other team.

Verica had twice as many interceptions as touchdowns last year and even if he has the best arm on the team, do we really trust him to come through with the game on the line?

Even though Sewell is horribly inconsistent, at least he got the job done in the clutch.  You do not win five games by two points or less by accident.

If Virginia is going to turn things around this season, it will have to start this week against TCU. Obviously, a victory would go a long way in curing ill feelings. However, if Virginia could at least show improvement, maybe they could salvage a season already on red alert.

To do that, Groh must look towards Verica. I know, it feels wrong to say. We all wanted the Hall experiment to lead to 28 points-per-game, but that is not in the cards.

Verica is Virginia's only passing option.

Remember that Matt Schaub had a tough time finding his rhythm in college as well. He went on to become the 2003 ACC Offensive Player of the Year when plenty of Virginia fans were screaming for Bryson Spinner or Marques Hagans not too long before that turn around.

If Verica struggles, you still have Sewell, who has shown a penchant for coming in late and getting the job done. 

Two-quarterback systems are actually not as complicated as Virginia makes it appear.  However, it requires a coordinator intelligent enough to utilize the strengths and weaknesses of each option.

Granted, a quarterback dilemma is just one of many problems facing the Cavaliers this season, but we have all seen the difference a quarterback can make on a team.

In truth, Virginia needs a leader. Someone who can rally the troops when faced with adversity.

The Tribe had that with their quarterback, R.J. Archer. Even when William and Mary constantly squandered scoring opportunities, they never got down on themselves. They simply willed themselves to a road victory against a team with its season on the line.

Virginia, conversely, looked defeated somewhere near halftime. 

The Cavaliers have six team captains, a school record. What they need now is for one to step up and act like one.


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