Adam Weber was the starter last season. He was the starter heading into camp And when the Gophers suit up against Northern Illinois on Saturday, Weber will be behind center. And he'll remain in that spot all season unless injury strikes or results take a nosedive.
For this season, the issues surrounding MarQueis Gray's eligibility are completely irrelevant. Weber's performance in 2008 will tell us how desperately the Gophers need Gray in the future.
Tim Brewster has made many changes with his personnel. He's moved wide receivers to corner back. He's shuffled his linebacking corps. He's made quite a few changes, but the one area he's overseen consistency is with his quarterback.
While that's great for stability, does Weber deserve such loyalty?
The most obvious answer is yes. His ability to serve as a dual-threat quarterback allows Brewster and Mike Dunbar to run their spread offense. As a redshirt freshman in 2007. Weber's 2007 numbers, however, leave room for marked improvement. If Weber is to be penciled in for three more years, he'll have to improve in a number of areas.
Let's look at some of his numbers from 2007. First, the good.
Weber finished third in the conference in yards per game with 241.2. He added 617 yards as a rusher, meaning he was responsible for 292.7 yards per game. In a vacuum, that would be fantastic. But you have to keep in mind that the Gophers were in the midst of a total embarrassment on defense last year. The Gophers played from behind often, allowing Weber to attempt, again, the third most passes in the conference.
I submit that looking solely at those numbers we learn next to nothing.
Now, the bad.
Weber tied for the conference lead in interceptions with 19. While throwing the third most passes, he had the second lowest completion percentage in the Big Ten at 57 percent, only behind Iowa's Jake Christensen. Combining Weber's high interception rate and low completeion percentage, among other numbers, that leaves Weber with a below average passer rating (or pass efficiency as the NCAA dubs the stat) of 120.8. That was good for 77th nationally, directly ahead of someone named Kinsom Lancaster of Louisiana-Monroe.
So, what's the verdict? Weber was and is the only option to run the spread for the Gophers BUT he put up below average numbers in 2007 if you don't just look blindly at simply yards produced from scrimmage.
Some of the negatives can be written off to freshman mistakes. And we should expect increased poise and maturity this season. Weber's 2008 results will depend in part on Minnesota's new group of wide receivers. Will they be sure-handed? Will they run crisp routes? Those unknowns, combined with the less-then stellar 2007 season gives all of us more reason to hope that the academic issues surrounding MarQueis Gray are short-lived.
Because after Weber, if Gray's not in the picture, the Gophers don't really have a quarterback that can run the spread in the present or future. I don't think anyone wants to see a long post here in the future looking in depth at Tony Mortensen or Mike Maciejowski. Junior college transfer David Pittman has consistenly been looked at by the Gophers as an athlete that can play numberous roles. To my knowledge, they haven't been looking at him as a quarterback. Cretin-Derham Hall's John Nance doesn't project as a top-notch quarterback.
Beyond the current roster, Brewster has received a 2009 verbal from Bloomington Jefferson's Moses Alipate, a fairly-highly regarded pro-style quarterback. But even if he turns out to be the answer, he likely won't see any action until 2011 at the earliest.
So, as the 2008 season begins many questions will need to be answered at the quarterback position. Is Weber going to take steps forward? And is Gray going to be a factor down the road? If both questions are answered with a "no," Minnesota's quarterback situation is going to be up in the air for some time to come.