Steven Bench got the start last week and it wasn’t great. 12 completions, just 5 first half throws, 1 interception, and no touchdowns from the entire unit led for a bad day for the Bulls, something that continues to plague them each week on offense. Coach Taggart went to Bench after a rough outing by Mike White against Cincinnati, but the move didn’t spark anything, instead leading to more questions. As the team practices this week, everyone wants to know who will be the starter in two weeks against SMU. The problem is, no one has an answer.
The Bulls have 3 quarterbacks, meaning they don’t have a quarterback. Coach Taggart and staff have tried to find the right signal caller for two years but it hasn’t worked out yet for them.
Last season began with Matt Floyd and that was a disaster from the start. Then they went to Bobby Eveld and he got hurt. Then they went with Steven Bench and he got hurt. Eventually they went with Mike White, the true freshman, and had mixed results, as was expected with a true freshman quarterback thrown into the fire. White showed flashes of his arm strength, but he was in a losing battle in the first year offense under Coach Taggart. He struggled and it was expected from the start. Yet, there was enough there to encourage fans of the future, the biggest moment being the performance against Houston.
This year both White and Bench were head to head for the starting job from the spring through the fall but White was able to emerge with the starting job. Fans expected bigger numbers and even better results from White this year but it has yet to come together for him and the offense. There have been circumstances leading to the ups and downs for White. He fractured his forearm in the 2nd game of the year, didn’t have his favorite target Andre Davis for several games, and was adjusting with a new offensive coordinator. Yet, despite all of that, his play on the field has left everyone wanting more and same from the coaching staff. We saw the glimpses again in the 2nd half rally against Tulsa, but before that and the game against Cincinnati saw him take another step back. For an offense that is barely moving the ball, they can’t take mistakes and costly turnovers, two things that White did to get himself benched. It’s frustrating when you can see the talent there but the player can’t execute consistently to get on the field. So the staff went with Bench against Houston, hoping for a spark and less mistakes.
Well, it didn’t work out that way. Bench and the offense failed to get anything going. Bench didn’t have the arm needed to air the ball out in the game. He showed some of his mobility, but he also took sacks when he needed to get the ball away and live to see another down. There is no question that Bench has more mobility and ability to escape pressure than White, but he doesn’t have the same arm strength nor does he make the same reads that White can at times. It feels as if the Bulls have two halves of a quarterback (this is just my opinion, not attacking anyone).
With White, we have a quarterback that has the size and arm to be the starter, but he can’t move. He is still very young and continues to make the mistakes that this offense can’t afford. Then we have Bench. A more veteran leader and someone that can run, but doesn’t have the arm and doesn’t have the same downfield vision that White has. This is a major issue. We have two quarterbacks that have some upside in a particular category, but they are deficient in another one. Without a big time quarterback, this offense will continue to struggle and there really is no answer on this roster at this stage. Unless the coaching staff thinks Quinton Flowers is the answer, but then again, there are issues with him as well.
The coaching staff decided to burn Flower’s redshirt and attempted to get him involved with the offense. Again, this has been a failure. Flowers has thrown just 4 passes all year and has been nothing but a wildcat style running option. Defenses know its coming and have stopped him all year, whenever he has been able to step on the field. So what was the master plan with Flowers? Did the coaching staff think he would be more skilled in the passing game at this point of the year? Did they think he could put up better yards running the ball when he was under center? Whatever their game plan was, it hasn’t worked and now its a mess. The redshirt for Flowers is gone and now the coaching staff is left trying to figure out how to use him in the offense. He has speed, but opposing defenses know all he will do is run the ball. He isn’t a threat to pass because he doesn’t know the offense well enough. It took Steven Bench all last year to learn the offense and he was a transfer player with some collegiate experience. Flowers isn’t there yet and is still figuring out this offense that isn’t the easiest to learn.
So what does the coaching staff do now? First, they need to pick someone and stick with it. They benched Mike White and now they could return to him. Doesn’t look real great does it? “Hey, we benched you, but you know we were just kidding. Get back out there!” Hopefully White’s confidence hasn’t been hurt and he could take over if called upon. If they go with Bench again, expect more of the same with the bad passing offense. He just can’t make the throws. As fans, don’t expect to see Flowers get a start or to take over for an entire game. He doesn’t know the playbook well enough to be effective. In my opinion, the coaching staff had a plan, it didn’t work, and now they are left with a burned redshirt and a young quarterback that needs more time. Its the mess they made and now have to deal with.
In my opinion, the staff needs to turn the ball back to White. Bench has the legs, but he can’t make the progressions or the deep touch throws (in my opinion). Yes, White isn’t mobile and mistake prone, but he at least gives the offense a chance to move the ball. The unit went into neutral for the entire game with Bench running the show and we don’t want that. I think White gives the unit the best chance at this stage as they try to win a few more games to end the year. I want to see more Flowers out there and for the staff to let him throw the ball. How about a quick screen or a quick slant? Something to get him going and get his confidence going. Running him into the line 3 times isn’t what I could call progress. They need to let him throw, get him moving out of the pocket, and let him create some. They did it last year with Bench when he had a limited knowledge of the playbook. Do the same and let him at least complete a pass.
The QB situation is an ugly mess and unless someone steps up, it won’t get any better. The coaching staff is still trying to find the right guy after two years and its frustrating for the fans to watch. Hopefully this bye week will give them some answers for the rest of the year and maybe we can get a solid performance or two from whoever takes over under center moving forward.