Starting freshman quarterback deserves coach’s assurance

Freshman quarterback Alex McGough.Freshman quarterback Alex McGough.

Anthony Calatayud/Contributing Writer

Pushing the envelope is something all writers do to a certain extent. Whether it’s Upton Sinclair, Jose Marti, or even myself, someone has to challenge the social structure for the good of the people who need to hear the truth. Now obviously, Sinclair and Marti were advocates for social change in different ways, but they both shared the same spirit. A spirit of searching for truth even if it’s not the easiest thing to do.

Did you know Sinclair, the author of “The Jungle,” went undercover for weeks at a meatpacking plant to get the facts for his book, which exposed the horrors of the industry; that’s tough to do. Marti, a Cuban poet and independence writer, was exiled and ostracized for his political beliefs that Cuba should be self-governed and break away from Spanish and American rule. Trying to break away from not one, but two imperial superpowers was a very tall task as well.

Finally we get to me, nothing hugely important or extremely difficult on my resume, like changing an entire industry’s sanitation code or freeing a country with pen. No, I’m just a humble sports writer and radio host that noticed a trend that I believe FIU football fans should be aware of and just ask themselves why?

The Panthers opened the 2014-2015 season losing to Bethune-Cookman 14-12. Junior quarterback E.J. Hilliard earned the start after a promising campaign the year before where he played well out of the bullpen for shaky starter Jake Medlock. All throughout camp, freshman Alex McGough was nipping at Hilliard’s ankles to get that starting spot, but Head Coach Ron Turner decided to go with the experienced Hilliard.

3-6 for 26 yards and 2 sacks were Hilliard’s stats before Turner decided to go with his youngster McGough, who came in relief and almost led the Panthers to the win, throwing 13-27 117 yards and a touchdown. After that McGough drew the start and hasn’t looked back on his way to starting the last eight games in a row and a record of (3-5). Three of the five losses were to Power 5 conference opponents in University of Louisville, University of Pittsburgh and undefeated Marshall University.

Even though McGough is playing well for a freshman quarterback on a rebuilding team, I sense that Turner is hesitant to hand the reigns completely over to McGough. The reason I say this, is because Hilliard has appeared in almost every game during the season, give or take a few.

Quarterback is a very sensitive position; internal and external confidence is a major intangible that every good quarterback has. Meaning, ‘coach believes in me and therefore I believe in myself.’ When you keep swapping out McGough for a cold off the bench Hilliard, it shakes both quarterbacks psyches.

I understand if the game is a blow out and you rest your starter for injury and safety purposes; I’m all for that. What I’m not all for is watching the freshman starter with mountains of potential make a freshman mistake and be yanked for the guy who’s been drinking Gatorade on the sidelines throughout the whole game. It’s unfair to both guys.

Getting into the flow of the game usually takes time, especially for a quarterback who needs to have complete control of the situation he’s walking into. Putting in the guy on the bench with a double-digit deficit to overcome is setting him up for failure. More than that is the stake that splits the locker room, what if half of the team supports the starter and the other half supports the backup? We see it in the NFL all of the time, you’d be naïve to think that college football is any different.

I believe that if the younger guy is just as good or better than the older guy, you start the youngster. McGough is the future of this program; as a freshman McGough is already tied for 10th all-time at FIU in touchdowns in a single season (9), and will jump to single digits during this season. If Turner believes that McGough is the future just like I believe it, he should have a longer leash with the freshman and reassure his internal and external confidence by leaving him in the game unless a blowout is at hand.

Just as the old football proverb goes: If you have two quarterbacks, you have zero quarterbacks. Let the young man rumble.


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