UA fans still waiting for ‘The One’ at quarterbackby Anthony Gimino on Oct. 01, 2009, under Sports
Arizona has tried a little bit of everything. The run-and-shoot. Wishbone. I-bone. Option. One back. Two backs. Pro style. Spread offense.
Through all the incarnations of offense at Arizona, starting when Dick Tomey took over as coach in 1987, the Wildcats have used 20 starting quarterbacks. The latest is Nick Foles, who made his starting debut Saturday at Oregon State.
Question is, will he be the greatest?
The competition isn’t stiff. Arizona’s quarterback roster through the Pac-10 years is not A-list stuff. Not one NFL player on it.
Arizona has used guys who couldn’t pass (remember when Chuck Levy attempted only one throw all game against Oregon in 1993?). Arizona has used guys who couldn’t run (we’re especially thinking of you, Dan White).
Arizona has used walk-ons. Arizona used a safety/linebacker/special teams captain (Heath Bray) to start a game at Miami in 1992. Current UA players might not know that defensive ends/special teams coach Jeff Hammerschmidt was an emergency replacement at quarterback in 1987.
Arizona quarterbacks haven’t been stars; they have been star-crossed.
The last UA quarterback to throw a pass in the NFL is now 58 years old. That would be Bill Demory, who played, briefly, for the New York Jets in 1973. (The Arizona Republic’s Bob Young recently caught up with Demory.)
But here we are again, on the verge of a new era. Or so we think. One game for Foles … so far, so good. Nothing so elevates a football fan’s spirits as the promise of a young quarterback.
Somehow, nobody has snapped up Foles4Heisman.com.
Just think. Foles has a potential 35 more starts as an Arizona quarterback, a total that includes bowl games for the next three seasons, because there is no way young Mr. Foles would let us down, right?
I think I have written this story before. In fact, I have. After Willie Tuitama’s sensational starting debut at Oregon State in 2005, I wrote a story for the Tucson Citizen about the potential of the freshman quarterback. Inspired by alliteration, an editor slapped a “Will Willie Wow?” headline on it.
Well, Willie wowed a wee bit.
Tuitama became the school’s career leader in passing, but his career took a detour due to concussions in 2006, the team had a losing record in games he started (see chart below) and he went undrafted by the NFL.
He was good. He was not The One.
Four years ago, he looked like he had a chance to be. Tuitama had the best debut for a UA quarterback, throwing for 335 yards in a 29-27 win at Oregon State in 2005 a week after being pulled from his redshirt season.
(Another great starting debut: Ortege Jenkins was 17 of 32 for 285 yards in a 31-28 victory over San Diego State in 1997.)
Foles was 25 of 34 for 254 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the 37-32 win at Oregon State.
One promising difference about Tuitama’s debut and Foles’ first start. Tuitama back then was a just a raw bundle of talent. As Stoops once said, mixing some clichés, Tuitama was “flying by the seat of his butt.”
Foles, a redshirt sophomore, has the benefit of a couple more years of life than Tuitama had in 2005. Foles looked completely at ease and in control on the big stage, earning as much praise for his demeanor as his numbers from Saturday’s game.
“The thing you like about Nick is he never gets really up or really down. He kind of stays even. That’s good,” said UA coach Mike Stoops.
“He’s very cool. He’s not a very excitable kind of guy. He’s a very cerebral person all the time … He has great poise and great knowledge and confidence in what he’s doing. I think the players like that.”
So does everyone else.
It is enticing to think he might be The One.
But there is a long way to go. Arizona fans have been here before. With UA quarterbacks, something always seems to go wrong.
UA’s 20 starting quarterbacks since 1987
|Kris Heavner||15||2003-04, 06||2-13|
|Chuck Levy||6||1991, 1993||3-3|