LAWRENCE — Jordan Webb chose to play quarterback at Kansas in the spring of 2008 after watching Todd Reesing make play after play in the Jayhawks' spread offense on the way to a 12-win season and an Orange Bowl victory.
"He was different from anybody I've ever watched," Webb said.
Reesing may have been different, but it was still easy for Webb to imagine himself doing the same things. Webb, who has a smaller build like Reesing at 6-feet tall, ran nothing but the spread offense at Union (Mo.) High.
"I didn't take a snap under center in high school, actually," Webb said.
Two years have passed since Webb gave his pledge to KU, and Reesing is gone, along with the spread-heavy attack used under former coach Mark Mangino. The Jayhawks are spending about half the time with the quarterback under center in Turner Gill's "multiple" offense — foreign territory for Webb — but that hasn't stopped Webb from impressing Gill and placing himself firmly in the heat of KU's quarterback competition.
With a week of practices in the books, Gill said Monday that Webb, a redshirt freshman, has been one of the standouts.
"He's been consistent," Gill said. "He has a great command in the huddle. I like his demeanor. He's played smart, thrown the ball fairly well and he's got a good grasp of what we're doing right now."
Gill said that Webb, sophomore Kale Pick and redshirt freshman Christian Matthews (who will also work at wide receiver) are the guys who have shown that they need more reps. That leaves junior transfer Quinn Mecham, junior walk-on Jacob Morse and junior walk-on Conner Teahan in a position of trying to move their way up the depth chart with less reps.
Teahan, a KU basketball walk-on who played quarterback at Rockhurst High in Kansas City, is trying out for the football team this spring. KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long admitted that Teahan is "way behind" at the moment, but Teahan remains undaunted by the long climb ahead.
"I'm a competitor," Teahan said. "I'm obviously trying to get out there. I didn't come here to sit on the bench like I did in basketball."
On Monday, the KU quarterbacks went about trying to replace Todd Reesing as Reesing watched from the sidelines wearing a blue Nike "Just Do It" T-shirt. It usually did seem as if Reesing, the most prolific quarterback in school history, was out there just doing it. If only it were that easy for Webb, Pick and company, who are learning an entire new offense and also feeling out what it's like to run a team.
"Quarterbacks have this thing," Long said. "They need to get to know the offense and the system first. As they become more comfortable in that, their confidence will go up and their huddle presence will go up. They're starting to really be commanders in that huddle."
Pick appeared to be the frontrunner to win the job coming in, given his extra year of experience and his appearance in seven games last season as Reesing's backup. Pick completed 4 of 5 passes for 22 yards but showed an ability to move the chains with several long runs, including a 55-yarder at Texas-El Paso.
"Now everyone thinks I'm a running quarterback," Pick lamented. "Now I just have to show I can throw it, too."
Webb is a more traditional drop-back passer, but Gill said that he can also make plays with his feet. Long said he's starting to get a feel for what both guys can do.
"Jordan probably has more arm strength than Kale," Long said, "and Kale probably has more foot speed than Jordan. That's the difference right here between the two. I'm very pleased with both of them. Whoever wins it, you try to play to those strengths."