So, for reasons totally unrelated to this blog, I was able to go check out the football team's practice/scrimmage on Saturday. I can't act like an expert on the subject - practice started at 9:30, but I'm a college student, and it was a Saturday morning, and the Ryan Field athletics complex is a half-hour walk from my dorm room, so I showed up at about 10:45 with like an hour left in practice.
Because I'm an idiot, and because my readers demand unsubstantiated speculation, I plan on making a big deal out of the hour of guys playing football for the first time in months, and I come preaching a gospel. The Gospel of Evan Watkins.
Dude is the truth. Yes, he's a redshirt freshman, and I saw him playing against second-string defenders. But he looked fantastic. He's rare for a Northwestern QB in that he's not afraid to throw deep, and did so with pretty great accuracy while I was watching him. The unofficial statline had him at 7-16 for 135 yards: but having seen multiple drops, I assure you it was better than that.
Now, fellas, look. I'm not saying we have a quarterback controversy here. Everything anybody close to the program - specifically Pat Fitzgerald - has said thus far this spring indicates that Dan Persa is Northwestern's starting quarterback. But yo! Over the course of an hour of me watching a scrimmage, Evan Watkins stole my football-watching hear and threw it accurately to a receiver in stride 15-20 yards downfield. There's things he can do which Dan Persa simply can't: for example, throw it downfield. Persa showed last year that he can be a factor in an efficient NU offense, but it's an offense we've seen before. It's the dink-and-dunk. It's the four yard curl route combined with the option handoff combined with the QB scramble for 2-4 yards. It's the offense Northwestern has run since the heyday of the CJ Bacher era: we've had multiple versions of the same quarterback thrust upon us. A dude with a solid, accurate arm on short routes, but with the exception of a few games of Mike Kafka last year, a guy who is unable to - and sort of scared to - throw the ball downfield effectively.
We've also seen in the past two seasons decent-sized roles for our backups. Towards the end of 2008, MIke Kafka became a guy who would come in and play with reckless running abandon while CJ Bacher was our more conventional QB. Dan Persa did almost the exact same thing last year, while Kafka had turned into a less running-oriented passer.
Again, we have two quarterbacks with divergent styles: Persa the NU QB clone, the quick dude whose arm suffers from Chad Pennington-itis, and the guy who, right now, is the best option at quarterback. But don't blame me for becoming infatuated over the course of an hour of Northwestern's first spring scrimmage of the year with his backup: Evan Watkins, the 6'6 kid with the cannon.
I'll see you guys in five months in Nashville.