One of the auxiliary MAC football themes this year has been quarterback issues. Many are playing well but for a couple of promising upperclassmen, their playing time is in dire jeopardy.
We've well-chronicled Toledo senior Austin Dantin's path from co-starter to backup quarterback and punt block team, but that was more of Terrance Owens lighting up the scoreboard. At Kent State, three-year starter Spencer Keith is now sharing time with David Fisher. And in Bowling Green, junior Matt Schilz has thrown just one passing touchdown in four games.
But in Eastern Michigan, since 2009 it's been death, taxes and Alex Gillett behind center.
Against Michigan State — a game they leading for so long they should've checked the Michigan State sideline Gatorade cooler for NyQuil — Gillett played two snaps, both QB keepers for a total of minus-one yard. Sophomore Tyler Benz played every other snap and did well.
Gillett essentially did not factor into the game. It was the first time he did not attempt a pass in the game for the first time since October 3, 2009, when he didn't appear at all. Kyle McMahon started that game for EMU, while that same day around the league Toledo used Aaron Opelt and Buffalo still had Zach Maynard. Three years is a lifetime and it's a darn accomplishment to have played that long. (For what it's worth, Keith, Zac Dysert. Alex Carder and current Ball State backup Kelly Page saw action that 2009 day as well.)
I had someone on Twitter tell me on Saturday, after Gillett was benched, that he was astounded coach Ron English sat him for most of the day, adding he would never let his son play for English. That may seem a bit much, and it does suck to take a senior and bench him, but at the same time English needs to do something with an unproductive quarterback. Look at Gillett's career numbers:
Based on the numbers (and even the eye test) Gillett is playing like he did when he was a promising freshman. He's also a senior leader and those six interceptions have all come in the last two games. His completion percentage is also way down.
Benz hasn't been much better (his completion rate is 45 percent on the year) nor is he much of a runner but he hasn't thrown a pick, either. And at this point, this is what English needs. Maybe not a guy to win you the game, but a manager who can at least give the defense an honest chance to catch their breath and prevent points.
At this rate Benz looks like the quarterback for 2013. Is English already looking ahead to that year? Perhaps, but mind you EMU is only 0-1 in conference play and cutting down turnovers could keep them in some games. Maybe not enough to win the West — the MAC West sorta resembles a Big Ten division right now — but they can't fold the season in September.
So it's an awkward position for English. He needs to focus on the future, but he also must start the best quarterback who can beat Kent State next week and avoid an 0-5 start, otherwise he may not be around for 2013 when Benz is the unquestioned starter.
If I had to wager a guess, knowing nothing about how he's practicing or what English is thinking, I'd say Gillett does start Kent State. We don't have an updated depth chart to go on, because it's a bye week, but little else motivates a senior quarterback more keeping him out of the biggest/toughest OOC game. Gillett is better than what he's done the first three games and an I'm sure it kills him to know, in hindsight, that an A-game from him may have led to an upset of the Spartans.