LAWRENCE — Kansas coach Turner Gill and his offensive coordinator, Chuck Long, will be working long hours together during the next month trying to pinpoint the right guy to replace the most prolific quarterback in KU history.
Sophomore Kale Pick and redshirt freshman Jordan Webb, the top competitors for Todd Reesing's old gig, have to feel like the decision is in pretty good hands. Gill finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1983 as a quarterback at Nebraska, and Long was runner-up for the award in '85 as a quarterback at Iowa. You'd figure Gill and Long would know how to pick a good signal caller, just like you'd figure Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood would know a brilliant film director if they saw one.
But that's the thing about art. There's no right way to go about it, and on Wednesday at KU's first football practice of the fall, Gill and Long expressed differing views about their preferred deadline for selecting a starting quarterback.
"It could go into the last week, could go to the day before the game," Gill said. "I don't have a deadline or timeline to make a decision."
Long knows the pecking order at KU and says it's ultimately Gill's call. But he made it clear he doesn't think the competition should continue into the week before the Jayhawks open their season against North Dakota State on Sept. 4.
"The latest I've ever gone or you ever want to go is 10 days before the first game," said Long, who coached quarterbacks at Oklahoma from 2000-05. "You like to get them 10 days at the very latest just so he has a day or so to talk to the media then two or three days before that game week starts. That's as far as I've gone. (Gill) may go that far, he may do it next week. We'll see how it all transpires."
Pick and Webb don't sound like guys who are practicing a whole lot of patience.
"I'd like to know as soon as possible," Pick said.
Webb said, "Of course he
wants to know, same like I do."
The last time Gill and Long got to watch their young quarterbacks in a practice, Pick outplayed Webb at the KU spring game in April, connecting on 14 of 22 passes for 214 yards and touchdown tosses of 73 and 37 yards. Webb hit 8 of 13 for 46 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Long was encouraged by what he saw on Wednesday.
"A lot better than the first day of spring, let's put it that way," Long said.
Gill and Long appear to be looking for the same qualities in their eventual starter: Can they make plays that lead to first downs while at the same time minimizing mistakes? When they make a mistake — inevitable for an unproven quarterback at this level — can they forget about it and return to the huddle with the same demeanor?
Pick and Webb spent the summer becoming comfortable with the new playbook after learning 70 to 75 percent of it during the spring. It's always hard to describe how an offense will function without seeing it on the field, but word is that the Jayhawks will be diverse, alternating between pro-style (under center) and spread (shotgun) sets. Pick said that KU, after going no-huddle the past three seasons, is huddling most of the time.
"There's some more play-action stuff from under center you just can't do in shotgun that really opens up the offense a lot," Webb said.
Differentiating the quarterbacks is pretty simple. Pick is faster and more athletic and likes to pull it down and run for yardage.
He's different than Reesing in that he will scramble to run more often than scrambling to pass. Webb has a stronger arm and can stretch the field in that way.
"Whoever wins the job," Long said, "we're gonna tailor our offense to that."
Apparently, Long could use about 10 days to make that happen.