August 18, 2013
Jalen Whitlow will play.
Whether he starts or not remains an unanswered question. But Whitlow's running skills -- offensive coordinator Neal Brown called him a "playmaker" and "one of the better athletes on our football team" -- means he will have a spot in any game.
"I think there’s a place for him, whether he won the (quarterback) job or not, to play him in a game," coach Mark Stoops said, "because of the dimension he gives you.”
"I thought Coach Stoops voiced that very well: he’s going to play at some point," Brown said. "If he wins the job, he wins the job, plays all the time, but if he doesn’t then he’s going to play some. He’s a good runner. People have to account for him. Not to get too complex, but they’ve got to account one, sometimes two people for him on the backside of runs, which creates space. That’s what you want: space in the running game.”
Playing a mobile quarterback is one that Brown has some experience with.
"We were a lot like that at Troy," Brown said. "So, yeah, that’s not something that’s out of my realm or anything. I feel comfortable doing that. We’ve been practicing a lot of his stuff in the spring and through preseason. But he’s a guy that has playmaking ability, that they can do things with the ball. Now, for him to win the job, he’s got to be an efficient passer and those type of things too. But his running ability is definitely a plus.”
First, let's take a look at they year-by-year breakdown of how quarterbacks fared on the ground while Brown was at that school. I only displayed passing stats for those deemed "mobile," since we're focusing on the players who did both.
-- 2003 (Massachusetts, tight ends/offensive line asst.): 44 rushes, 61 yards.
-- 2004 (Sacred Heart, quarterbacks/wide receivers): 29 rushes, 51 yards.
-- 2005 (Delaware, wide receivers): Sonny Riccio. Passing: 175-for-316 for 1,869 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT. Rushing: 108 rushes, 528 yards, 7 TD.
-- 2006 (Troy, inside receivers): Omar Haugabook. Passing: 241-for-393, 21 TD, 17 INT. Rushing: 140 rushes, 554 yards, 5 TD.
-- 2007 (Troy, inside receivers): Omar Haugabook. Passing: 291-for-475, 18 TD, 15 INT. Rushing: 155 rushes, 823 yards, 11 TD.
-- 2008 (Troy, offensive coordinator): Time split.
Jamie Hampton started first five games (after winning "three-way battle" in camp) before season-ending injury: 107-for-175, 1,045 yards, 9 TD, 8 INT, 51 rushes for 257 yards and 4 TD.
Levi Brown started the next eight games: 201-for-326, 2030 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT, 33 rushes, 95 yards.
-- 2009 (Troy, offensive coordinator): 54 rushes for 150 yards and 1 TD.
-- 2010 (Texas Tech, offensive coordinator): 33 rushes for 153 yards, 2 TD.
-- 2011 (Texas Tech, offensive coordinator): 54 rushes for 193 yards, 4 TD.
-- 2012 (Texas Tech, offensive coordinator): 48 rushes for 190 yards, 2 TD.
Now, let's look at the instances where Brown had a quarterback who was a threat on the ground.
The closest parallel to this year's team and personnel is 2008. Brown -- then the offensive coordinator at Troy -- had a "three-way battle" at quarterback on his hands, according to the team's official website.
He ended up selecting Jamie Hampton, who ended up with slightly worse passing stats than his main competitor but who brought the added element of being able to rush the ball.
Hampton started the first five games, averaging 21 completions on 35 attempts for 209 yards per game. He threw nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in those five games.
He also rushed 10 times for 51 yards per game, with four total touchdowns on the ground.
Hampton was injured and missed the rest of the season in the sixth game, and a more traditional passer (Levi Brown, who averaged a 25-for-40 game for 254 yards with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions, but ran just four times for 12 yards per game) took his place for the final eight games.
The two years before that, while Brown was a wide receivers coach, Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook won back-to-back conference player of the year awards by being a dual-threat option. I won't go into much detail with that -- Haugabook doesn't provide much of a parallel to Whitlow, I think, because of how great a passer AND runner he was. His statlines are ones Whitlow won't approximate.
There's one other case I think proves interesting. In 2005, as Delaware's wide receivers coach, quarterback Sonny Riccio passed for 1,869 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions while rushing 108 times for 528 yards and seven touchdowns. No, Brown wasn't calling the shots. But he was able to see what a mobile quarterback -- even one without great passing stats -- could do.
But just because Brown has a quarterback who's mobile doesn't mean he'll start him. In his other six years as a coach, the QB never rushed more than 55 times.
"If (the competition is) even, I think that helps," Brown said of having a quarterback that can run. "But at the end of the day, it comes down to making the decisions, who can be an accurate passer, and who can lead."