Are two quarterbacks better than one?

September, 1, 2010
9/01/10
9:00
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An early theme has emerged as we speed toward kickoff -- two quarterbacks are better than one it seems.

At least 12 programs plan on playing two quarterbacks in their season openers this weekend. From Penn State to South Carolina to Nebraska to BYU, coaches are either keeping mum about their starters, trying to fire up incumbents with the threat of job loss, or truly undecided about what to do.

Two-quarterback systems have met with little success in the past. They disrupt rhythm and fail to foster team chemistry, so it is a wonder why so many programs are going that route. Here are a few examples:

At Penn State, coach Joe Paterno says he could play Kevin Newsome, Matthew McGloin or Robert Bolden in the opener Saturday against Youngstown State. "At this stage, I couldn't tell you which one is going to come to the front as the guy to lead the team or whether we have one who can handle the kinds of situations that the quarterbacks are going to have to handle as this season goes on," he said. One of them, or perhaps two, is going to have to grow up fast with a game at Alabama looming on Sept. 11.

[+] EnlargeZac Lee
Marc Piscotty/Icon SMIZac Lee threw for 2,143 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
At Nebraska, coach Bo Pelini has yet to name a starter. Fans will most likely have to wait until the opener against Western Kentucky on Saturday night. Zac Lee, Cody Green and Taylor Martinez have all been in a heated competition for the starting job. You can almost bet on more than one guy playing.

At BYU, Riley Nelson and Jake Heaps will both play Saturday against Washington. Coach Bronco Mendenhall says he could play both for the entire season, realizing the risks involved. "It hasn’t worked at many places and there’s a reason teams name a starting quarterback," Mendenhall said. "You have a much better chance of establishing an identity, you have a much better chance of establishing chemistry, you have a much better chance of working on a single system in practice and getting execution at a higher level because of repetitions. …

"It wouldn’t be my choice to play two in other situations. The possibility of why it might work -- I think the nature of our team, the type of maturity our players have, and the genuine support both these guys seem to have toward each other has made it easier for me to feel this is the right thing to do."

At South Carolina, coach Steve Spurrier has said Connor Shaw will play Thursday night against Southern Miss, along with Stephen Garcia. Spurrier has tried to light a fire under Garcia, who has underachieved in his time as a starter for the ol' ball coach. Now that Spurrier is calling the plays, you know Garcia will be on an even shorter leash. Spurrier has plenty of experience playing multiple quarterbacks. It was his rotation of Doug Johnson and Noah Brindise in 1997 that helped the Gators upset No. 1 Florida State. But in later years, his quarterback derby never worked successfully.

At Michigan, coach Rich Rodriguez will once again play two quarterbacks. Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier are expected to get into the game against Connecticut. Rodriguez has yet to name a starter. "We don’t have a set plan by this series or this series, this certain plays or those certain plays in our mind right now," he said. "We just want to try to get them as good as we can and get them ready to play against a very talented defense."

Other programs expected to play two quarterbacks this weekend:

Arizona State -- Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler (note: Threet has been declared the No. 1 quarterback).

Eastern Michigan -- Devontae Payne and Alex Gillett

Mississippi State -- Chris Relf and Tyler Russell

Ohio -- Phil Bates and Boo Jackson

Rice -- Nick Fanuzzi, Taylor Cook or Taylor McHargue

Troy -- Jamie Hampton and Corey Robinson

UCF -- Rob Calabrese and Jeffrey Godfrey

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