LAWRENCE — On Friday, two quarterbacks walked into Kansas football coach Turner Gill's office. Minutes later, Jordan Webb exited the room as the Jayhawks' starting quarterback, while Quinn Mecham left with the knowledge that he would be Webb's backup.
A year ago, Webb was on the other side of this same conversation. Kale Pick was chosen as the starter, Webb his backup. So Webb can empathize with Mecham, a senior whose hard work during the offseason did not earn him the job of his dreams. But Webb, a redshirt sophomore, also knows from experience what can happen to a starter who doesn't perform up to expectations.
Pick couldn't move KU's offense in an embarrassing 6-3 loss to North Dakota State in last year's season-opener, and Gill, looking for a spark, made the switch to Webb. Pick didn't start again and is now one of the Jayhawks' top wide receivers.
Yes, fortunes can change quickly at the quarterback position. But, judging by Gill's comments on Friday night at KU's annual pep rally in Prairie Village, the plan is for Pick to catch passes from Webb — and only Webb — for the foreseeable future.
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"I told them both that this isn't an issue of this person is gonna be taken out quickly," Gill said. "I told (Webb), 'Don't sit back and think about what happened last year.' There's a whole lot different with our football team last year to this year. There's no situation where Jordan's gonna have a chance to lose his job at any time soon."
Webb started seven games last season, completing 56.5 percent of his passes for 1,1195 yards and 7 touchdowns with 8 interceptions. After bursting onto the scene with a three-touchdown performance in leading KU to a shocking 28-25 victory over Georgia Tech, Webb looked mostly like an overmatched freshman.
KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long has said that Webb was playing like he was still the most talented player on the field at Union (Mo.) High. Webb has said that he needs to keep things simple and not fall victim to the trap of trying to make everything happen in one play.
"I feel like I'm getting better every day," Webb said Tuesday. "That's one thing I wanted to do is be consistent and try and grow as a leader. I feel like I've really been doing it."
Webb was expected to win the job over Mecham in fall camp, but the question of whether he is KU's best long-term option at quarterback. Freshman Brock Berglund, a three-star dual-threat quarterback who was expected to compete with Webb for the starting job, missed all of spring practice and has missed some of fall camp dealing with a legal issue at home in Colorado. Berglund is being charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly throwing a punch at an April party.
Fellow freshman Michael Cummings, a three-star dual-threat quarterback from Killeen, Texas, has impressed coaches with his athletic ability but was not ready to push Webb in fall camp.
The 2011 Jayhawks are Webb's team, and he'll have every chance to prove that he's capable of leading Gill's program in the years to come.
"Jordan Webb has done a great job of being a playmaker," Gill said. "He's improved as far as his overall talent. I've seen our players respond to him as a leader. He's earned it. That's why he's our starting quarterback."