Let the Debate Begin: The Ralphie Report Mailbag Touches on the Key to 2009

The past couple of days have been either really busy or really quiet around the Colorado sports world and their are probably more days like this ahead. But as long as there is nothing going on and the mailbag keeps filling up, it is as good a time as ever to start the debate on the quarterback spot. Reminder, if you have a question or a topic that you want to see us cover, shoot us an email at theralphiereport@gmail.com

A reader named Ryan has officially started the offseason...thanks for your question:

Do you think injuries played the biggest role in our struggles at QB last year or has Cody maxed out his potential?  I really saw him as a possible future Todd Reesing or Chase Daniels type player during his RS Freshman year.  However, he seemed to regress a little last season.  I think he's a great person, well-coached and a team player but I wonder if he would've played significantly better behind a stronger line (he played well against CSU but already seemed to struggle against WV and Florida St. before injuries came into play). 
 
Also, what do you see from Matt Ballenger this year?  Do you think he has a realistic chance to compete for the starting job?

Loaded question. I have been stewing about this question for a few days now. Of course we have all thought about it. Let me say Ryan asked this question with perfect detail.

My thought on the whole thing is that I am glad that we have three guys in competition for the spot but the key is for any one of these quarterbacks is to TAKE the job and do it quickly. This team needs to feel confidence that it has the right quarterback and an established quarterback who makes the players surrounding him comfortable. I am not a fan of playing two quarterbacks throughout the year as CU became even more predictable last year when Hansen was in the game and of course, the Buffs need to stay healthy. Last year was just too weird of a year to completely throw Cody out of the position or anoint one of the younger guys as the starter. I hate the excuses much like you but the Buffs lost two of their best lineman in Ryan Miller and Tuioti-Mariner, had a relatively vanilla receiving corp and had a freshman toting the rock. Couple that with a tough schedule and an already young surrounding cast, and Tim Tebow himself would have had trouble succeeding in this offense. Also, the play calling will need to improve next year. The spread is supposed to be very rhythmic and supposed to get the ball in the playmakers hands very quickly. Last year, whether it was due to a lack of speed, talent, coaching, whatever, the Buffs could never get in a rhythm. Part of that is on the quarterback, part is on the offensive coordinator. I am done with my asterisks on the subject. 

Now on to the meat. I believe Cody's development was stunted by the injuries and the youth of this team but I also think that Cody is limited. Nothing new by that statement. I believe Ballenger, Hawkins and Hansen will come into spring drills even and all will get a fair shake at it. Last year was too crazy with injuries, youth, bad play calling, etc. to not give everyone a fair shake.

Defining the qualities of each guy, Hansen and Ballenger both have measurables that Cody doesn't necessarily have and Hawkins has leadership qualities and is a gamer that we have yet to see from the other two. Let's just say that if the WR commits we have now come to Boulder and Simas is eligible, that will help out these QB's immensely.

QB Qualities:

Hansen - has the ability to run, adds a dimension, has a good arm that was shown in practice but wasn't confident enough to let it rip because he was young. He does have good spin on the ball. Needs to add some weight and needs to get better acclimated to the playbook. Needs to slow the game down. Will have to become a leader. Bottom line, he has talent but he was a freshman last year. The learning curve will need to be big this offseason. Their is still a ton for us to find out about him.

Hawkins - undoubtedly, the leader of this team. I still think he has decent arm strength but his size gets balls batted down at the line and most importantly, he struggles to find throwing lanes. The Buffs offense needs the tight end and part of their decline in production is due to Cody not being able to see the entire field. His ability to throw sideline to sideline is a question mark. He had good games against only Iowa State and CSU this year with turnovers and short drives too often plaguing this team. Cody will always leave more to be desired as he isn't flashy but I still want to give him a shot behind a healthy line and some more playmakers this spring and fall. He has other intangibles that aren't necessarily measured by stats.

Ballenger - kind of the unknown in this whole process. He has great measurables with good size and height. I would say his arm strength is on par with Hansen. He does have some mobility, certainly more than Hawkins. Other than that, we don't know a ton.

I think I speak for most Buff fans in that we would like Tyler Hansen to assume control of the position to see what he brings to the table. We have seen Cody and we like Cody a lot as a person and he will be a great coach one day but we have seen that show. If Cody wins the battle, so be it... we just have to hope experience, playmakers and health provide better results. Tyler just seems like a better fit for the offense we are running and his athleticism adds a dimension.

May the best man win and win it convincingly

We will see. I am sure this will be debated a ton from now until the CSU game.

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