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USF Should Play Both Quarterbacks in 2015

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USF has two mediocre quarterbacks. Willie Taggart hates deciding which one will be the starter. Why should he have to?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe Steven Bench will get just enough experience to hold the offense together this year. Maybe Quinton Flowers' raw talents will develop into a thing of beauty, but neither has happened yet. The quarterback shuffle over the last two seasons has not been enough to determine a clear starter, and we can expect to hear that the position is still open during fall camp. Bench is the bigger, more experienced man, who isn't a terrible passer. Flowers is the raw, dynamic, more athletic man who would probably make some big plays as well as some big mistakes. Coach Taggart should break the taboo and give them both playing time.

I know that platooning quarterbacks has been a joke since William Webb Ellis first picked up a soccer ball and started running with it in 1823. I believe Solomon even wrote in Proverbs, "If thou hast twain quarterbacks, thou hast none." Teams that let two quarterbacks split time will normally do so because neither player emerges as the good one. And that's exactly why USF should do it.

Bob Devaney platooned quarterbacks at Nebraska in 1969 and 1970, going 20-2-1 with a national championship. Bobby Bowden platooned Jimmy Jordan and Wally Woodham at FSU from 1977-1979, going 29-6 in those three seasons. When I was growing up, I watched teams do it all the time. Admittedly it didn't usually lead to a great season, but Nebraska platooned some in their 1994 national championship campaign, Ohio State went 10-3 splitting time between Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine in 1997 and Penn State was 19-6 platooning Kevin Thompson and Rashard Casey in 1998 and ‘99. And of course the Leak-Tebow tandem that won the 2006 National Championship is engrained in all of our memories.

Coach Taggart switched to the spread offense this year, and that system was precisely one of the reasons Chris Leak and Tim Tebow both worked as quarterbacks in 2006. Quarterbacks have fewer complicated decisions to make in a spread. What they need to do most of the time is read one defender on run plays, or fake some play action in the backfield and look for a clearly open receiver on pass plays. An open receiver is usually more obviously open in the spread because most defenses don't have the numbers to cover everyone on every play. Instead of throwing downfield and hoping that his best receiver beats the cornerback, the quarterback can hopefully look to the middle of the field or the flat and find someone wide open because the defense is caught off guard. The open guys should be easier to see and the passes should be easier to make. Theoretically, this should increase completions and decrease interceptions, even if your quarterback isn't a superstar.

In a system like this, the quarterback may be thought of as a specialist whose skills are used to take advantage of certain situations. Steven Bench is a better passer than Quinton Flowers, and Flowers is a better runner than Bench, so they could be utilized accordingly. That doesn't mean the Bulls would have to give away their game plan every time they switched quarterbacks. Taggart should be able to impose his will on FAMU in week one, so he could play to the quarterbacks' strengths and have Flowers do most of the running and Bench do most of the passing while the whole offense gets a better feel for how the system works. The next week in Tallahassee, with Flowers on the field the defense would creep up and load the box for run plays, so Taggart could have him throw down field. Then Bench can come in and the safeties will drop back to defend against the pass, so he could have Bench run. There's nothing to lose in that game, so it would be a good time to experiment and see what happens.

Spread quarterbacks tend to be more susceptible to injury because they run more, but splitting time would also reduce the wear and tear they would take. This is why USF didn't run Marlon Mack on every rushing play last season, even though he was the best rusher in the conference.

Look, we all know that Taggart doesn't really commit to a quarterback for an entire season (or even an entire game) anyway, so he should just own that. He has gone through five quarterbacks in two years and has one transferring in to play next year, too. Taggart could just come out and tell us that he plans on alternating them. We are already used to it. It would look better if he could say it was his plan all along.

Normally, I like to see a single quarterback leading the team through an entire season. It gives me a sense that the team has an identity, and a Bulls team with an identity gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. But in the real world you don't always have the miraculous quarterback you wish you had. Sometimes you have to make your weaknesses into strengths, and this may be a way to get the most out of the players that are already here.