As I was listening to Paul Wulff's radio show last week, something struck me as incredibly interesting. He mentioned that the Cougs had a pair of JC transfers who could each help the team right now -- probably as starters -- but that the coaches were electing to redshirt both in order to maximize future performance out of the two.
(I can't remember who they both were, but I do remember that one was defensive lineman Bernard Wolfgramm.)
I mention this not to start a conversation on the team's JC philosophy, but to provide some perspective on the quarterback situation, where it looks like Gary Rogers' chance to be the quarterback we all hoped he would be has vanished, as coach Paul Wulff wants to start Kevin Lopina again, bad wrist and all.
Now, Wulff is saying the politically correct things, noting that Rogers probably will play on Saturday against Portland State, and that he won't "rule out" Rogers playing a lot. But the proof is in the pudding, and every message Wulff sends indicates Lopina is his guy going forward and, barring some kind of injury or catastrophic play by Lopina, you've probably seen the last of Rogers playing meaningful football for the Cougars.
First, Wulff said much the same thing about Rogers' playing time heading into the game against Baylor, but he took the field only after, A) Lopina got a long, long look and showed an ability to move the offense, turnovers notwithstanding; and B) The game was way out of hand.
Additionally, Wulff said Lopina will get the majority of the reps with the first team in practice this week "if (he) is healthy." That doesn't exactly scream, "open quarterback competition."
Lastly, and perhaps most damning, is that Portland State gives whomever is starting the best possible chance to have some success going forward. If this team was invested in Rogers for the rest of the season, he absolutely would be starting this game. But he's not, and that says everything you need to know.
Is it fair? Probably not. But I think Wulff is absolutely making the right decision.
Of course, we know Rogers' story all too well: Career backup who waited patiently while Alex Brink set all kinds of records, even as the fans consistently called for the tall, rocket-armed gunslinger to see the field. He finally gets his chance in this, his fifth and final year, but after just six quarters of undistinguished play ... poof! Back to the bench.
And while some might argue that six quarters just isn't enough time to evaluate a quarterback, I would argue that Rogers has had every opportunity to be successful. He was installed as the No. 1 quarterback from the moment last season ended. He went through the entire offseason and all of training camp as the starter, practicing everyday with the No. 1 offense. He started the season as the top quarterback, even as the whispers grew louder that Lopina had been outplaying Rogers in practice.
Rogers got plenty of chances, ostensibly with a playbook designed to take advantage of his strengths, and he responded by becoming easily the worst statistical quarterback in the Pac-10. When you're a fifth-year player -- especially a quarterback -- and you're on a bad team trying to build for the future, you'd better be appreciably better than anyone else on the roster. And that just simply hasn't been the case.
However, to make this all about the future is misleading. Lopina also is the best choice to help this team get going right now. I suspect that for Gary Rogers to be successful, he needs weapons and an offensive line that can protect him. He hasn't had those things at his disposal, which isn't his fault. And maybe that's why Grady argues for giving Rogers more time, because those things are only going to get better as players get healthy. But with where this team is at right now, having a guy who can move around, who can hit some short routes without throwing the ball 98 mph, and who can carry the ball occasionally makes the most sense.
It's a bummer for Rogers, a guy I genuinely feel for. Could things have been different for him without a change in coaching staffs? Perhaps -- it certainly couldn't have hurt him to be running an offense he'd been studying for four years, especially considering how lost he looks in terms of progressions.
But I think it's about time that we as Cougar fans finally entertain the idea that maybe -- just maybe -- Rogers' inability to pass Brink on the depth chart had nothing to do with some sort of irrational man crush on the part of Timm Rosenbach and everything to do with Rogers' ability to be an effective Pac-10 quarterback. If Rogers was everything we had built him up to be over the past three-plus years, he'd certainly be completing more than 50 percent of his passes, no matter what offense his team was running.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope that if he gets his shot at some point this year, he shows that he can, in fact, be a big time Pac-10 quarterback. But I'm beginning to come to grips with the fact that it's probably just not a realistic expecation.
Hello, Kevin Lopina. Please lead us to some victories.