REPORTERS AND FANS ARE saying that BYU has a quarterback controversy on its hands, so I went to Provo to check it out. After watching practice and looking over the situation this week, I have reached the following conclusion: No, they don't.
I've seen a lot of quarterback con-troversies over the years; trust me, this is not what one looks like. For one thing, everyone is still smiling. Even the quarterbacks.Perhaps some examples will help:
Genuine quarterback controversy: Jim McMahon and Marc Wilson.
Imitation quarterback controversy: Kevin Feterik and Drew Miller.
Genuine quarterback controversy: Kevin Feterik and Paul Shoemaker.
Imitation quarterback controversy: John Walsh and whoever that other guy was.
It doesn't take as much as it once did to have a quarterback controversy. Most people have just one requirement for a QB controversy: more than one quarterback. Supposedly Utah State and the University of Utah also have quarterback controversies. We haven't played a game yet and already we have so much controversy.
But not at BYU. How do you have a real controversy when one of your quarterbacks has outplayed the other in actual game situations, and one of them is a true sophomore with five games of experience and is not named Detmer?
Answer: By not naming the starter. BYU coaches are doing their best to court a quarterback controversy by doing their usual we'll-wait-till-the-season-starts-to-name-a-starter routine, which they do probably because it tends to keep the attention and interest of both quarterbacks. If you want a controversy, just try keeping your starter a secret.
"They really are very even," says head coach LaVell Edwards.
"They're both playing well," says Norm Chow, offensive coordinator.
At least they've got their story straight. The Cougars are playing coy. The starter will be either Feterik or Miller - or, if we must, Miller or Feterik. You've got to be careful because people are anxious to turn everything into a Clue.
CLUE NO. 1: One player told me that last year, when there was a Genuine Quarterback Controversy between Feterik and Shoemaker, the two quarterbacks took turns taking the first reps in practice. This year Feterik takes the first reps every day. You can decide where this ranks on the list of Significant Clues.
CLUE NO. 2: The BYU Bookstore sells replica Cougar football jerseys, and they all bear the same number: 7. It is the only number they will sell this year.
CLUE NO. 3: A couple of teammates have let it slip that Feterik is the team leader and have all but said he is the starter.
To which we reply: Duuuh.
At this point, there isn't much basis for a controversy. On the one hand you've got Feterik, a junior who completed 125 of 208 passes (60 percent) for 1,767 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in about seven games - the first real action of his college career. This was despite playing nearly half the season with a bad ankle.
On the other hand, you've got Miller, who, as a freshman, completed 37 of 67 passes (55 percent) for 430 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Feterik won his first three starts, against Arizona State, SMU and Utah State before going down with a broken ankle. He was rushed back into duty a month later but was never on top of his game after the layoff and who could blame him. He returned to lead the Cougars over Tulsa, but the Cougars lost their last two games, against New Mexico and Utah.
As Edwards said, "Had Kevin been healthy, we would have won a few more games last season. He was just coming on."
Miller filled in admirably against TCU and UTEP, but the Cougars lost the latter game (and that hurt). When Feterik returned for the last three games, Miller didn't play. He's young and vastly talented, but he'll have to wait, for now.
There's no controversy here, but here's a prediction: There will be after two or three weeks. Three reasons:
1. The No. 2 quarterback is always the most popular guy in Provo. Last year Feterik threw for 345 yards in three quarters of play against Utah State, and people were still calling for his rival, Shoemaker. It doesn't matter who's on the sideline. If Danny DeVito were the backup, there would be clamor to play him.
2. How many times have you seen the Cougars get through a season without an injured quarterback? That's a sure prescription for the old QB controversy.
3. Have you seen the schedule? The first three games are against Alabama, Arizona State and Washington, two of them on the road. If (when?) the Cougars get rocked in a couple of those games, then you'll have a Controversy.
But until then, we're going to have to ask everybody to please hold off on the talk about a quarterback controversy. Pick your spots. Wait till the season starts. Meanwhile, if the Cougars want to keep their starting quarterback a state secret, their secret is safe with us, right?