The Gophers still have several positions that lack depth of talent, but at quarterback they now have a proven veteran starter with talented athletes backing him up. In fact, many analysts have speculated that freshman MarQueis Gray may replace starter Adam Weber by season's end. And what of the talented true freshman, Moses Alipate? Let's take a look at each of these players, and review their strengths and weaknesses.
Let's start with a chart of their measurables, ratings, and experience:
|Adam Weber||6'3||217||4.82||22||Jr - 3rd yr starter||3||3||74|
|MarQueis Gray||6'4||215||4.48||18||Fr - grayshirted||4||4||80|
|Moses Alipate||6'5||230||4.70||19||Fr - true freshman||3||3||81|
Adam Weber - Strictly by the numbers, Weber has the experience and age to secure a position as the starting quarterback. Weber has been a solid Big Ten quarterback over the past two seasons, and may be among the best in the conference. In 2008 he started every game and passed for 2761 yards with a 62.2% completion rate, 15 touchdown passes, and 8 interceptions. As a freshman in 2007, he passed for 2895 yards with a 57.5% completion rate, 24 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions.
Weber has an above average arm and above average speed for a quarterback. His greatest games have come while star receiver Eric Decker is healthy. Weber has remained durable through two seasons, and can scramble if necessary.
Based upon past seasons and the TCF Bank Stadium scrimmage, Weber's greatest weakness is his tendency to lock in on Eric Decker, telegraph his passes, and miss secondary and tertiary receivers who may be open while the primary target is covered. As a junior with two years of experience as a starter, he should be expected to avoid these tendencies in 2009.
MarQueis Gray - Gray is probably the most gifted athlete of the three quarterbacks. While he has yet to take a snap in a regular season game, his performance in scrimmages and on video indicates that he has the total package for a quarterback: arm strength, speed, coordination, height, and the size to withstand repeated contact.
Some analysts have speculated that Gray's talent level will lead to him slowly replacing Weber as the starter, as happened with Terrelle Pryor last year at Ohio State. Gopher fans should look forward to watching the development of this young quarterback, and whether he becomes a passing quarterback with speed or a running quarterback who can throw. I'm going out on a limb by making this comparison to a unproven freshman, but MarQueis Gray reminds me of Donovan McNabb. I predict that he will develop into a quarterback who is an excellent passer, but can also beat defenses soundly with his legs.
Moses Alipate - Alipate appears to be a prototypical pocket passer with above average speed to scramble when required. Alipate is reported to have a very strong arm, but may need a redshirt year to work on his mechanics. Of the three quarterbacks, Alipate may have the best chance of becoming an NFL pocket-based quarterback. While it will take a few years to determine the projections for his future, at 6'5 230 pounds with a rocket arm and a father who played in the NFL...Alipate has the right stuff.
2009 Outlook - Realistically, expect Adam Weber to be the primary quarterback throughout the 2009 season. Weber has advantages of age and experience that will be key to success with a grueling schedule. MarQueis Gray will probably be involved in several plays per game, and may see more action as the season progresses. I'd be surprised if Moses Alipate doesn't redshirt.
Expect Gray to become the starter under the following unlikely scenarios:
- Adam Weber is injured
- Adam Weber is unable to look off Eric Decker and find secondary receivers, and the passing game becomes ineffective
- Gray's talent and development are such that he cannot be left off of the field
A real quarterback controversy could be possible in 2010, when a senior Weber competes with an experienced Gray and a polished Alipate. In order for such a controversy to occur, Gray and Alipate would both have to remain healthy and develop to their potential. That being said, the position of quarterback may be the most difficult position on the field for predicting long term success due to the unique combination of skill, size, work ethic, durability, and decision-making abilities required for success. The Gophers are fortunate to have three players with the raw skills to potentially become adept in all of these areas.