Sorry, but I don’t think Sean White is the guy.
USA TODAY Sports
For all the disappointment and consternation regarding the game on Saturday, it was fairly unanimous in the opinion class that Sean White did a good job in his first start. Yes, he made some mistakes, but he looked fairly comfortable running the offense between the twenties. To that I say, “Wow, we certainly have low expectations after the drubbing in the Bayou.” Don’t get me wrong, Sean did an OK job. He proved he could keep the ball for a decent run when nobody was expecting him to keep it. He managed to hand the ball off well to the RB’s and hit most of his WR’s on short passing attempts. But let’s make no mistake, Sean White is not ready to lead an SEC football team… not to wins, anyway.
Some may think that is an unfair assessment, but the reason we played Sean in the first place was to seek an UPGRADE at the position. The thinking, or my thinking at least, was give the backup a chance to see if he could come in and produce where JJ was failing, to provide a spark and show that he was a better option going forward. In that respect Sean didn’t do the job. He may have gotten us into the red zone four times, but he didn’t get us in the end zone once.
Would Jeremy Johnson have done a better job? I don’t know, but based on what we saw in the second half at LSU, when Gus had JJ become a part of the running game, the offense was much more dynamic with JJ. Despite his success running on Saturday, Sean is not going to be a part of the running game unless he gets ignored, as he was until he burned the defense a couple of times. Once defensive end’s stay at home and check him for the ball, his threat of running the ball is over, i.e. he’s not going to run any QB draws for 65-yard touchdowns… ever.
As for the passing game, he was adequate. He got away with a few bad passes and got let down by some drops, but my main concern is that he did not or was not allowed to challenge the Bulldog defense downfield. What happened to the wheel route or the fly? You have to stretch the field if you want the running game to have any breathing room. Sean was fairly efficient between the 20’s but there is nothing about the way he threw the ball Saturday night, that would lead me to believe he can convert a corner fade or drop a pass to a Melvin Ray in the back of the end zone over the heads of two or three defenders, which is what you are going to have to be able to do to score inside the ten when the field is compressed.
Sean has plenty of arm and can sling it with the best of them, but he didn’t show me that he had much touch to make a pass when there wasn’t a direct line between him and the receiver. If anything he threw the ball too hard. Brandon Cox, he is not, but he also isn’t Stan White either. These were issues that Nick Marshall had most of 2013, but that didn’t hurt him too much due to the fact that his main weapon was his legs. Sean will have to find some touch or finesse if he is going to be the QB going forward.
So the question is …
Now that he season is ostensibly over, all we are playing for is pride, a winning record and a trip to a meaningless bowl, whom do we get behind to prepare for next year? Who has the most potential? Who can put us in the best position to be successful and make a run in 2016? To me, it’s Jeremy Johnson. I know Jeremy has been AWFUL, but the offense looked much more like a Guz Malzahn offense when JJ was allowed to start running the ball and not just sitting back in the pocket staring a hole through his intended receiver.
JJ IS a threat to run and thus has to be game planned for.
You saw what Mullen did when he came into the game on 3rd and 1 at the goal line. He called a timeout and reset his offense to account for JJ running it. He wasn’t concerned at all about Sean running the ball. For what it’s worth, I thought that was the correct call by Gus, and he should have stuck with it instead of playing chess with Mullen and going back to Sean. The hole that JJ walked through behind Braden Smith was big enough for a Denali to drive through, and I think that would work against all but the most stout defenses. It was one of the few times Gus dialed up the right play at the right time and he blinked when Mullen called the time out. Gus has been his own worst enemy this year and is probably at fault for how poorly the QB position has looked simply because he isn’t putting them in a position to succeed by calling the right plays at the right time.
For instance, the other night on 3rd and 20 deep in our own territory, Gus dials up a play action/statue of liberty play which is quickly snuffed out by an MSU blitz. Is that what you call on 3rd and 20 with an inexperienced QB? What defense is falling for a play fake? They know you aren’t running the ball when you need 20 yards for a first down! So Sean got fed to the wolves. This has been common this year in the play calling. Gus just doesn’t seem to be thinking beyond what play will get him the yardage he needs. He doesn’t seem to be anticipating what the defense is going to do to defend and take away the most likely option to get those yards. Time and again, Gus has been outschemed and outcoached. That being said, I don’t want any heads, but I do think it’s time to open the playbook, run the plays you need to run, and sink or swim with the consequences.
All that being said, I think Jeremy Johnson is the guy that gives us the best chance to be successful in that scenario.
JJ has all the physical tools and talent to do the job, and he can run most of , if not the whole, playbook. What JJ lacks is experience and the confidence that experience provides. Has he made terrible, stupid mistakes? Yes, and lots of them. But so did Jason Campbell before 2004, and the two are very similar athletes. JJ is just one of those guys who is going to have to have some success to become the type of player he is capable of. Will he have any success against the like of San Jose St, Arkansas, or Kentucky? I don’t know. It kind of depends on how Gus game plans.
All I know is that from what I’ve seen of the two QB’s, I think JJ has the potential to bring home wins in those games. Sean would have to rely on the defense shutting down the other team for him to win those games, which I think is a bit much to ask at this point. Sean is a prototypical caretaker QB, the guy you ask to hand the ball off, make passes underneath the coverage and not make mistakes in the hopes the defense can keep the other team from scoring more points than you, a la Daniel Cobb or Brandon Cox.
I don’t see Sean as the guy who is going to stretch the field and cause the opposing DC to lose sleep trying to game plan for what he can do.
Sean MAY develop into that guy eventually, but I didn’t see anything the other night that made me think, “Boy, all he needs is a few starts under his belt, and we’ve got a chance against UGA and Bama at the end of the year.” He just doesn’t strike me as a guy who has a bag full of tools just waiting to be utilized. In essence he is a high-floor, low-ceiling talent.
For all of his faults, JJ has also made some outstanding plays, and after what I saw in Baton Rouge in the second half, I have hope that he is a guy who can eventually grow into the elite QB we were hoping he would be to start the season. He’s not there now, but Cam Newton isn’t on the sidelines, So, if I’m planning on being competitive by the end of the year and a contender next year, I have to put my faith in JJ and hope he progresses. If Sean White is my guy, I just have to realize that he is going to take me only so far, and I have to hope that the defense is going to get much better between now and next fall.
I’ve always felt it’s better to go with the high-ceiling guy and roll the dice. JJ is our one and only high-ceiling QB right now. We may have to suffer in the short term, but I think we will be better off in in the long term. Of course …
That’s just my opinion.