LAWRENCE — Nearly a month into the season, the Kansas quarterbacks know where they stand. Jordan Webb is the clear starter now, Kale Pick the injured backup and Quinn Mecham the third-stringer who will see his repetitions increase out of necessity in the coming weeks.
But Chuck Long, KU's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is trying to get them to see it differently.
"When I go into my (meeting) room, everybody is the same to me," Long said. "I don't have a depth chart. I don't even talk depth chart, really. I just said from day one, 'Just be ready to play.... Stay even-keeled. Don't get caught up in the emotions of a season.' "
Long's goal appears noble but not very realistic. The truth is there for everyone to see each Saturday, and for Pick, it is especially hard to live with after being named the starter on Aug. 19. In Pick's only real action of the season, he couldn't get the offense to move in its 6-3 loss to North Dakota State and lost his job to Webb the next week.
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Then, in mop-up duty during KU's 42-16 win over New Mexico State on Saturday, Pick injured his left leg on his second play. He'll be out at least three weeks.
"Obviously, I want to be out there," said Pick, a sophomore from Dodge City. "I'm not out there, so it's tough."
Rumors circulated that Pick was going to transfer after losing the job. He said those rumors were untrue and also tried to end any discussion of him possibly moving to wide receiver as Kerry Meier did three seasons ago by saying he "probably" wouldn't. Pick considers himself a quarterback, and being as young as he is, he has not given up hope of earning the starting job again.
"I am not gonna stop trying," Pick said. "I just try to learn stuff every day and get better every day. That's the best I can do on a daily basis."
In his limited duty against the Aggies, Pick showed his resiliency by turning a negative into a positive. He thought that he had broken a bone and was limping around the field but stayed in the game. He ran once and threw it twice before the drive ended.
"Definitely didn't feel good," said Pick, wearing a protective boot on Tuesday. "I was always taught to get back up no matter how hard the hit is. I've never liked to take myself out."
Long came away impressed by that attitude, and he probably wasn't alone.
"I told Kale after the game, 'You don't know how far that goes with your teammates,' " Long said. "That's what you need out of your quarterback."
While Pick has had to settle for little victories that can be hard to see, the redshirt freshman Webb has proven he has the mental and physical makeup to move the Jayhawks. It's his job now, and he can only work to improve on completing 61 percent of his passes for 625 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception. Webb's performance is even more impressive given that he is not working with a full playbook.
"That takes years of work," Long said. "We're off to a good start."
Mecham, who will backup Webb against Baylor on Saturday and likely against Kansas State on Oct. 14, has hardly gotten off the starting block in his KU career. A junior transfer from Snow College in Utah, Mecham has been taking three to four repetitions a week in 11-on-11 drills, according to KU coach Turner Gill.
To this point, Mecham has not been prepared to execute a full game plan.
"Before every game I give the game plans to everybody," Long said. "Quinn, because he doesn't get a lot of repetitions, gives me the plays he's comfortable with. He'll circle some of the ones he likes. I'll favor those. This week's a little different."
This week, Mecham will have to be ready for everything.
"I don't think he's going to be at the same level as Jordan Webb," Gill said, "but if the game provides him an opportunity to play then I think he's going to be able to do some things."