BY JEREMY HOECK
Faced with a question over who quarterbacks the Coyotes moving forward, USD has chosen — like many college and pro coaching staffs do — to delay any final decision.
Coach Joe Glenn was rather noncommittal when asked Tuesday.
“We’ll play with the best guy we got at quarterback, at running back, and do the best we can.”
Does that mean a decision has been made on either Josh Vander Maten or Kevin Earl?
All it means, to me, is that the USD staff realizes that a) yes, something needs to change, and fast, and b) it could actually have a small sense of a competitive advantage over Missouri State the longer it waits.
Heck, you might see the Coyotes wait until the very first play from scrimmage.
And really, why not wait? There’s really nothing to be gained from announcing mid-week that Vander Maten or Earl is the starter. Any such decision isn’t likely to sit well with certain parts of your fan base, but from a football perspective, you can keep a slight edge over your opponent. And then there would be the concern that another rough game Saturday would have you right back in the same position next Monday or Tuesday.
Such questions like, ‘Who’s the starter?’ or ‘When do you expect a decision?’ are ones us media types ask; a good quarterback controversy makes for interesting reporting — and when you cover a program that hasn’t won on the road since 2010 and is 2-13 over the last two years, you look for a new angle.
But again, from a football perspective, coaches would tell you that quarterbacks get too much of the credit for a win and too much of the blame for a loss.
When it comes to Vander Maten, yes, he has struggled through the air. He was 8-of-21 for 26 yards in last Saturday’s game at Western Illinois. Slice it any way you want, that’s not going to win you games. When your defense keeps things close like USD has against UC Davis, Northern Arizona and Western Illinois, your offense needs to come through.
The other side of the coin would be, it might not be all Vander Maten’s doing. As Glenn said Tuesday, you have to “catch better, throw better, block better; all the above.” Vander Maten isn’t responsible for blocking up front, he’s not responsible for receivers running crisp routes and finding space, he’s not responsible for dropped passes. The list could go on.
Clearly, though, the Coyotes could use a spark.
And whether or not that means Earl sees more time, I’m not sure. But it’s exactly why his name is being thrown around; why he saw some time in the fourth quarter in Macomb. If he gives the Coyotes a better chance to move the ball, then you’ll see him in there Saturday.
Personally, I doubt USD would ever try something like Yankton High School did with the three-quarterbacks-on-the-field-at-the-same-time gimmick. That won’t work against Missouri Valley defenses, teams will figure it out. But sure, I would think there could be some other options to spark the offense.
For now, as we sit here on Tuesday afternoon, the USD staff has some time to figure out what it wants to do. I highly doubt we’ll see a clear Vander Maten or Earl answer before Saturday’s kickoff. Because frankly, USD doesn’t need to make a decision right now.
If the Coyotes come out sluggish again Saturday under Vander Maten, then you’ve got a similar story next week. And you know that’s not what the coaches want to deal with every week.