Mike Leach loves QBs. Mike Leach loves scoring points. Mike Leach
loves at one point had an interest in pirates, but the internet screwed that up. Last year, the head coach of the Washington State Cougars went with the Senior Jeff Tuel to begin the year. Very uncharacteristically, he began flip-flopping QBs, as RS Sophomore Connor Halliday then took over as starter. Looking back at Leach's history at Texas Tech, he's not a huge fan of giving the reigns to a young guy. In fact, he went three straight years starting RS Seniors (BJ Symons in 2003, Sonny Cumbie in 2004, Cody Hodges in 2005) before handing the offense over to RS Sophomore Graham Harrell in '06.
History tells us that Halliday will be under center against Auburn, but it's not a given at this point. RS Freshman Austin Apodaca will be making the decision quite difficult for Leach and the rest of his staff. Let's see how the two measure up:
Halliday: 6'4 / 183, RS Jr., ✯✯✯ QB (Spokane, WA)
Apodaca: 6'3 / 191, RS Fr., ✯✯✯ QB (Longmont, CO)
Arm Strength: Halliday
This is no knock on Apodaca. The former Silver Creek Raptor has a cannon for an arm, but when comparing arm strength with Halliday, he comes up a little short. I'd venture to guess Halliday has one of the strongest arms in the entire nation.
This one is fairly easy, as Halliday is pretty much a statue in the backfield. While mobility isn't something that's paramount in this offense, it doesn't hurt (especially with our offensive line). If you're going to run around, Leach wants you to do it to buy more time, not to rely on your feet. We saw this a bit with Tuel last year.
This one is tough to judge because only one of them has actually played in a collegiate game. As we all know, high school stats are super duper important, but I chose not to factor in Apodaca's fantastic senior season. Why then am I not giving it to Halliday by default? I just don't think Halliday has it in him to be that type of QB. I think some QBs work better in systems were they see an opening and throw, rather than anticipating the receiver being in a spot. I originally gave the advantage to Apodaca, but felt that wasn't really fair and made me a hypocrite. So I'll call it a push for now, because who the hell really knows.
Halliday detractors argue that Halliday has the same amount of experience in the Air Raid as Apodaca does, so it shouldn't be an advantage. While I see the logic in that, you can't discount his overall college experience in this. This will be Halliday's fourth year at a Division 1 program, while it will be Apodaca's first year not running the Scout Team.
Overall Edge: Halliday
I think this will be a very good QB battle, to be honest. When I first watched tape of Apodaca, I wasn't super impressed. Then I watched updated film of his senior year and was blown away. If I were comparing HS Sr. Connor Halliday to HS Sr. Austin Apodaca, I'd pick Apodaca every day of the week and twice on Sundays. But I'm not picking between those two options.
Halliday's main issue is ditching the gun slinger mentality without ditching the gun slinger mentality. You want Halliday's supreme confidence without his disregard for what he sees while relying on what he thinks is a superior arm strength. It's a fine line Leach and Co. have to walk. If you change Halliday too much, he's not the player who threw for nearly 500 yards and 5 TDs as a freshman. If you don't change it at all, you get the bad Halliday of last year who gave out interceptions like Oprah gives out swag.
Apodaca's main drawback is simply his lack of experience. The fact that we're legitimately having this conversation speaks volumes to Apodaca's god-given ability, as well as his grasp of the offense. While not identical, he played in a similar spread-type offense in high school. Obviously Leach's system is more complex, but he understands getting the ball out quickly and throwing to a spot.
In the end, I believe Halliday wins the job while Apodaca is the very capable #2. If both of these guys are RS Juniors, though, I don't think I make the same decision. Lastly, if you're wondering about Tyler Bruggman's place in all of this? I'll eat Nuss' shoe if he
is even a factor at all wins the starting QB spot. (I don't want to eat Nuss' shoe.)
So, what do you think? Who do you think should start? Not who you think will start, but who you think should.