The Bruce Gradkowski Era is over at the University of Toledo. It remains to be seen what era comes next.
Currently, the spring football depth chart at quarterback reads, in order, Clint Cochran, Brandon Summers and John Goolsby.
But, coach Tom Amstutz said yesterday, It s not where you begin on the depth chart, it s where you end.
The end will be determined sometime between now and Aug. 31, when the Rockets open the 2006 season at Iowa State.
UT is in the early stages of its 15-day spring practice schedule and Cochran, the heir apparent to Gradkowski, said that coaches have indicated that every candidate at the position has a clean slate.
There s no question that no one can replace a guy like Bruce right away, Cochran said. But we re all getting great coaching and the guy who emerges will get the job done. The next quarterback won t be the same as Bruce, but he wasn t the same as the guy before him either.
Gradkowski started for three seasons and ended his career having rewritten every major UT passing record 19 in all and as the most valuable player in the Mid-American Conference. In his final appearance, Gradkowski threw five touchdown passes in Toledo s 45-13 GMAC Bowl win over Texas-El Paso.
Those are big shoes to fill, said receiver Steve Odom. But somebody will fill them. We have a lot of confidence in what these young guys will do when they get a little experience.
Cochran has a leg up in the competition because he served as Gradkowski s top backup last season and saw action in six games, including a start at Fresno State when Gradkowski was recovering from a concussion.
Cochran completed 32 of 43 pass attempts, a rather robust .744 completion rate, with one touchdown pass and one interception during his redshirt freshman season.
Goolsby, who entered UT in the same class as Cochran, has not appeared in a game. Summers, who originally committed to Indiana University, was redshirted this past season as a freshman.
I think Clint has the upper hand because he s had more playing time and game experience, Summers said. But I got more [practice] reps than I expected last season and the coaches tell me there s no No. 1 guy, that everybody has a shot at the job.
Summers (6-foot-0, 187 pounds) is the quickest of the three and brings more scrambling and running ability to the position. Goolsby is the prototypical drop-back quarterback at 6-5, 215.
Cochran falls in the middle at 6-3, 205, and does have the advantage of a performance line from last season.
I think it will help me, but the competition is fierce, he said. It s my third year in the system and I know the plays and what is expected.
But Brandon is a really bright guy and has a lot of athleticism. He can really move around and brings another dimension. I m closer to John in style. We re both drop-back passers.
Goolsby, who said each candidate brings a little something different to the table, is not discouraged by entering his third season in the program with no game experience.
I feel I have a knack for the game, pretty good arm strength, and that I know the offense pretty well, he said. I may not have played yet, but I used every day the last couple years to prepare myself as if I was going to play. And I learned a lot from Bruce about leadership.
That will be a key ingredient as Amstutz and his coaching staff work toward a decision.
A quarterback has to have talent, good decision-making abilities, a strong arm, and leadership ability, Amstutz said. Anybody who displays all of that can be plugged into our system and be successful.
There s a lot of time between now and UT s visit to Ames, Iowa, in late August.
But the quarterback candidates know the clock is already ticking.
We have only 15 spring practice days and we re all trying to get better every day, Goolsby said.
Raymond Williams, Ohio s Mr. Football in 2003 at Cleveland Benedictine High School who is on probation for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated robbery, is participating in spring drills with UT s football team, Amstutz said.
He s practicing twice a week in the Friday and Saturday sessions only, Amstutz said. His main focus remains on academics. He was out there for our first practice on Saturday and it was obvious he s a very talented young man.
Williams rushed for more than 6,000 yards and 79 touchdowns during his junior and senior seasons at Benedictine. He was recruited to West Virginia University, which later withdrew its scholarship offer in light of Williams conviction.
He has not played football in two years and is a walk-on candidate at UT.
Contact Dave Hackenberg at: email@example.com or 419-724-6398.