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Chuck Landon: Taking odds on the next Herd QB

Mar. 30, 2008 @ 12:20 AM

Who is ready to wager on Marshall's upcoming quarterback derby?

I certainly am.

Since I'm the handicapper for this race, here's a look at all five quarterbacks' strengths, weaknesses and odds of becoming the Herd's next starting quarterback when spring practice begins Tuesday.

  • Mark Cann: The 6-foot-4, 237-pound freshman wowed everyone last season with his intelligence, poise and ability to absorb Marshall's complex offense. Better still, the big left-hander has the physical tools to match his mental prowess. Cann has size, athleticism and an arm that is both strong and accurate.
  • I like Cann's instincts, composure and brain-power. Although he's definitely a prototypical dropback passer, I also like that he has enough athleticism to escape a pass rush and run if necessary. I believe Cann is the clear-cut favorite to win the starting QB job. The odds are. ... 2-to-1.

  • Jonathan Garner: The Georgia Tech transfer is similar to Cann. He also is 6-4, left-handed, a pocket passer and possesses a high football IQ. But Garner isn't as big at 218 pounds and his arm strength is merely average. It will be difficult for the junior to improve his velocity because he arrived at Marshall with an undisclosed lower back problem. MU coaches didn't learn about Garner's chronic condition until he couldn't take part in some phases of weightlifting.
  • Despite that, he is clearly talented. Should he win the starting QB job, he would become the most popular Garner this side of Jennifer. The odds are. ... 4-to-1.

  • Chris Smith: Last season the 6-1, 220-pound freshman was overwhelmed by the speed of the game and complexity of being an NCAA Division I quarterback. He was lost. As a result, he showed very little of his talent during practices. The light bulb did start to come on for Smith late in the season, as he began to digest the offense. But just as he was getting comfortable with that offense, a new coordinator was hired. So, now, Smith has to learn John Shannon's offense.
  • I look for Garner and Smith to be No. 2a and No. 2b in the quarterback pecking order. If Cann gets hurt, Garner would replace him. But if all the quarterbacks stay healthy, I picture Smith as being the change-of-pace QB that Florida coach Urban Meyer has popularized. Smith is the best runner and most athletic of the QBs. He also has the strongest arm and throws well on the run. Smith's gun-slinger mentality makes him perfect for the change-of-pace role. The odds are. ... 10-to-1.

  • Brian Anderson: After last season's possum-in-the-headlights performances, coach Mark Snyder's confidence in Anderson became road-kill. That will be impossible to resurrect during spring drills. The sophomore already has proven he's a good practice quarterback. What Anderson needs to show is that he can be a good game QB. There will be no opportunity to do that this spring. The odds are. ... 12-to-1.
  • Wes Beardain: Some players actually think the little-used junior will win the starting job because of Shannon's horizontal-based passing attack. That would be a huge upset considering Beardain has appeared in only one game in two years. The odds are. ... 20-to-1.

Those are the odds. Anybody ready for mint juleps?

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 526-2827. E-mail him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.