LAWRENCE — Even when he wasn't playing quarterback for Kansas last Saturday, Jordan Webb thought it was his obligation to make sure his teammates were "pumped up" against North Dakota State.
"I'm up and down the sidelines, getting in people's faces," Webb said. "That's just my personality."
Webb, who played the final 11 minutes of KU's 6-3 loss to the Bison in relief of Kale Pick, will get the chance to show more of his fiery persona as the Jayhawks' starting quarterback this weekend. KU coach Turner Gill announced the change after Wednesday's practice, and Webb did not appear to be daunted by making his first start in front of a national audience on Fox Sports Net against No. 15 Georgia Tech.
"It's an awesome opportunity," said Webb, a redshirt freshman from Union, Mo. "It really is. People are going to be looking down on us now after last week. We need to come out here and make some noise and get some people talking."
Webb will be the first freshman to start at quarterback for KU since Kerry Meier in 2006. Three weeks ago, when Gill announced the sophomore Pick as the starter, it seemed likely that Webb would have to wait a while to get this opportunity. That reality did not go over so well.
"It really motivated me," Webb said. "I got beat out for a spot. If that doesn't motivate you, nothing will."
Gill said there was a "good chance" Pick, from Dodge City, would play on Saturday, too. Pick was unspectacular in his first start, completing 13 of 22 passes for 138 yards and an interception. Webb completed 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards but also could not guide KU into the end zone.
"We thought (Webb) deserved an opportunity to see what he can do as a starter," Gill said. "It wasn't necessarily what Kale didn't do. There were multiple things that were happening on the offensive line, with the wide receivers, penalties and dropped balls. Both of them are pretty good quarterbacks."
Both quarterbacks received good news this week when Gill moved two-year starter Jeremiah Hatch back atop the depth chart at center. Hatch, a junior, started at left tackle as a redshirt freshman and at center as a sophomore. It is unclear what kept Hatch out of the starting lineup during fall camp, but he will be at center against the Yellow Jackets with Sal Capra moving back to left guard.
Gill said he and Hatch spoke a couple of times earlier in the week.
"That was very difficult for him, standing on the sideline there and watching his teammates play," Gill said. "He's prepared to go out and play this week."
Webb recalled a conversation he had with Hatch last Friday when both players were second-stringers.
"He's hungry," Webb said. "He told me, 'Jordan, I'm hurting, man. I wanna be out there.' I said, 'I know, Hatch, me too. We just gotta keep playing.' "
Webb will have only a couple of days to prepare for his first start against an aggressive Georgia Tech defense, which will throw a lot of different looks at him out of a 3-4 scheme. He was asked whether his homework will be put on the backburner.
"Probably will, to be honest," Webb said. "I gotta be in the playbook. But of course I'm gonna take care of my academics."