LAFAYETTE — Coach Mark Hudspeth has reason to tread lightly, but I don’t: When the Louisiana-Lafayette football team opens its season at Kentucky on Sept. 5, Brooks Haack should be directing the offense.
Hudspeth and, for that matter, the quarterbacks have said all the right things about the competition so far. They also have a much larger pool of information to pull from, having been a part of every minute of the quarterback competition so far.
But from what I’ve seen, it’s clear Haack is ahead of both Jalen Nixon and Jordan Davis in the race to snag the starting role.
Saturday’s scrimmage further cemented that notion, and it’s gotten to the point where — based on the evidence at my disposal — it’s hard to imagine Nixon or Davis unseating Haack by the time the season opener rolls around.
Maybe I’m a sucker for big plays, but Haack threw two beauties to a streaking Devin Scott down the sideline for long touchdowns — one going for 64 yards and another for 63.
The 63-yarder was called back for a penalty, but it was more evidence of a big and accurate arm.
He threw another touchdown to Scott, this one coming on a 16-yard fade as Scott made a brilliant play on a nicely thrown ball.
The reason this sticks out is because it looks strange coming from the Cajuns offense. Terrance Broadway did a lot of things well last season, but connecting on deep throws was not one of them, and at times the Cajuns labored because of it.
Imagine what wonders it would do for Elijah McGuire and the potent rushing attack if the defense was on its heels, anticipating a deep ball. Or if it had to be wary of a post route or deep out, inconsistent aspects of the Cajuns offensive repertoire last season.
Give McGuire space to operate? Good night. He’ll be past defenders before they even realize what’s going on.
This is not all to say that Haack has been a perfect quarterback. He looked a little shaky early in Saturday’s scrimmage when the defense brought pressure, and while he’s much more mobile than some seem to think he is — he had three carries for 21 yards Saturday — he surely won’t operate the read-option attack as well as Broadway did in his three years here.
But what quarterback at this level is perfect? Give me the guy who can sling the rock.
This, of course, doesn’t mean Hudspeth has to declare a starter now. He actually has backed farther away from naming a starter than he was at the beginning of spring camp.
Here was Hudspeth after Thursday’s practice: “I thought Brooks came into camp ahead, because he’s demonstrated a lot of leadership, he’s demonstrated a lot of accountability. But in the last two weeks, the other two guys have narrowed the gap with their performance.”
In the portions open to the media, Haack has not only been exclusively working with the first team against the first-team defense, but he has been on the money with his throws, more so than Nixon and Davis.
A gut reaction says Hudspeth is playing this one as close to the vest as possible, because what’s the point of naming a starter early? By letting the competition carry over through the summer and into the fall, he should be getting the best out of all three every day, whether that’s as a leader, in the weight room or during drills.
There’s much more value in that than the alternative. Hudspeth is a smart guy, and he knows this.
Plus, it’s not as if Haack is competing against a pair of, well, hacks.
Nixon is the closest thing the Cajuns have to Broadway, a physical specimen who’s capable of forcing defenses to defend all 11 players on the field. He fits the offense the Cajuns have run the past several years and certainly wouldn’t be a bad option.
Davis, a redshirt freshman, may end up being the best and most complete of all three in the long run. His arm isn’t far behind Haack’s in terms of strength and accuracy, and he’s a long strider who can pick up yards in a hurry.
But with the type of team the Cajuns have now, they shouldn’t be thinking about potential or continuity at the quarterback spot. It should be about who gives the team the best chance to win.
The Cajuns might not be ready to say that yet, but I am. That man is Brooks Haack.